Advocate Anecdotes are real stories from real people who have been through the thick of it when it comes to family caregiving. Their stories inspire us to do well, take our hardships one day at a time, and most importantly, they bring us together.
Because – no one should have to navigate the complicated world of eldercare alone and unsupported.
Penney Hubbard’s Story
How one senior rescue dog chose us & helped my mom through her journey with Alzheimer’s
My mother always said she would get a dog when my dad died, but that never happened. 13 years after dad died mom needed to move to an early Alzheimer’s care facility.
9 months later, in the middle of life overwhelm, my husband and I visited the animal rescue place down the road from where we live. We had been dogless 7 years and deeply missed living with a dog but had no intention of adopting a dog. I was recovering from breast cancer, my husband was waiting chemo therapy for bladder cancer, I was dividing my time between preparing my parents house of 42 yrs for an estate sale and spending time with my mom – getting a dog was out of the question. A friend posted on social media photos of a dogs at the rescue place and we thought we’d get some doggy ‘hits’, as we called our time with dogs. We played with, sat with, petted first the boy dogs in one room, then went to the girl’s room where 2 rambunctious toy poodles were running around. I sat down on a pillow on the floor, a third dog, a calm larger miniature poodle, walked into my lap, sat down, making no eye contact but acting like she had been waiting for me. This was Abby. I went back to see her once. She was 9 yrs old, had been a ‘breed’ dog, was tattooed and debarked.
Life was chaotic, repeat, this was NOT the time to adopt a dog!
Abby waited. We had the estate sale. Over a month later she was still not adopted. I turned up the driveway to the rescue shelter, paid my fee, and took home a dog who had spent her 9 yrs in a house with 30 other dogs.
4 days later Abby I went to see my mom. Her eyes lit up when I walked in with Abby. I placed Abby on her lap and mom hugged her so hard I was worried for Abby. It was instant love on my mom’s part, calm acceptance from Abby. I walked Abby to where people were waiting to go to the dining hall. Abby walked to each woman sitting in a circle of chairs. To those who were delighted and leaned down to touch her she carefully put her paws on their laps and accepted their affections. One woman was reticent, Abby walked over, sat in front of her until the woman leaned down to pet her, she moved closer. How did a dog who spent 9 years as a breed dog for a backyard breeder/hoarder know such behavior!? She was a natural therapy dog.
On one visit a man who did not talk with any other residents and seemed moody and depressed asked if he could pet Abby. While petting her I asked if he had had dogs. He told me all about his German Sheppard and was quite chatty. Doggy magic!
Mom looked forward to seeing Abby every time I went to be with her. We’d walk outside, mom in her wheelchair, Abby walking alongside or riding in her lap. One time I went without Abby and mom, who was having a bad day (the Alzheimer’s progressing) was grumpy and not happy with me at all. Finally she said, “Don’t come without Abby!”
Mom came up with many creative plans for how she could have Abby live with her. Some included how if she moved to a different room with a window that would be easy for Abby to crawl out of she could walk herself.
Eventually, Mom’s Alzheimer’s progressed to where she could no longer live where she was living. 16 mos. after she moved there, she needed to move. She had bad experiences at 2 adult care homes and in the last months of her life, unable to talk or feed herself, she lived in a special Alzheimer’s place closer to where I lived. It was there she had a severe stroke and was put in a nursing home. We were told she might have a few days to a week to life. I took Abby in and laid her on the bed next to my mom who was not conscious of anything going on around her. Abby gently, calmly, laid up against her body, as she did at night with me.
Mom was moved back to the Alzheimer’s facility. Abby was not comfortable there and mom no longer related to her. Mom died 2 mos later. That little dog brought pleasure to mom for over a year. Abby lived 8 yrs with us, she was there for me as I experienced more cancer and health challenges. She never left my side and died the day before the heat doom of 2021, she was 17. This little dog, her own elder years, was sent to provide elder care for my mom, and myself.
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