My father, Jo, is 71. Unfortunately, I have suspected for some time now that he is losing his mind. The signs at first were curiously concerning, but I rationalized them away.
For example, Dad had daughters. Twin grandsons were his second chance to engage in all sorts of “boy” activities that he missed out on with us: Scouting, fishing, sports, BB guns, etc. But, earlier this year, when the boys were nine years old and the new James Bond movie premiered, Dad sat at my kitchen table one Saturday afternoon and suggested–with a straight face– that he take the boys to see the movie. Mistakenly, I thought he was pulling my leg per his dryly sly sense of humor. But, no. He was serious. Hang on there, Dad….let me read the review of that movie. Humph. Extra violent, inappropriate humor, an ambiguously bi-sexual villain, and of course the usual female love interest…..nope. Not going to happen. (So, I left the boys with Joel and I went with him. 😉 Just being a loving daughter.)
But, perhaps most strange was when about three years ago he acquiesced to my Mother’s plea to buy a standard size poodle puppy. During my childhood, Dad tolerated our assorted dogs…two toy poodles, and later a three pound Chihuahua. Dad is a cat person. And, once he raised me and my sister and sent us into the world, there would be no reason for him to ever own another dog.
So, throwing common sense to the wind, enter Bo, the black standard poodle. Bo is at least as smart as a three year old child, and far less mannerly. I recall in my raising being expected to mind my parents, and I never got away with anything. Bo? Not so. Bo is incorrigible. And, my parents are not upset by his antics. No, they laugh! They tell tales about him that horrify me. I know they are capable of better, obviously, since they raised me and my sister! They were uber alpha dog with us, so to speak. When they said sit, we sat and said yes sir, thank you, sir. Bo? So far, he has eaten, chewed, and mangled no less than twelve leashes, two wallets, one cell phone, a several hundred dollar pair of prescription glasses, countless socks, a door facing or two, and several sandwiches left unattended on the kitchen counter for milliseconds. Bo understands Spanish and English, especially when pertaining to his intended bedtime or being placed in his crate resulting in my parents resorting to spelling or subtle eye movements to communicate around the dog. All this despite professional obedience training.
And, in yet the strangest twist, guess who Bo adores? Exactly. Not Mom. Bo is extremely possessive of Dad to the extent that he wedges between them when they hug, and he sleeps in the bed between them. A sixty-five pound dog, in my father’s bed—without objection from Dad? This is certainly not the father with whom I lived. Who has kidnapped him and where have they taken him? Now I’m really worried that early dementia is setting in.
But, tonight I received confirmation that my father is slipping away. He sent email, which I have pasted below:
I have just come in from walking Bo. I asked permission from Doris to beat him, but she won’t let me.
When I started out with him I gave him a chance to poop in our yard. If he will do that before we get into the road I don’t have to scoop it up into a plastic bag from the road and then carry it in one hand all around the neighborhood. He didn’t accept my offer to poop in the yard. So we headed out down the road with his leash securely around one wrist so he can’t get away from me. I called my sister on the cell phone to talk with her as I walked, as we talk every Sunday evening. We had only gone about fifteen yards, just past my neighbor’s driveway when Bo began to squat to poop. Great, Bo. Couldn’t you have done this one minute ago before we left the yard?
I told my sister I had to lay the phone down a minute to clean up after him. I placed the phone on the road pavement and squatted down on my knees to scoop poop. The leash was still around my right wrist. While starting to scoop poop, I felt Bo pulling on my right wrist, toward my neighbor’s yard. I looked to my right and there in the brown mulch surrounding one of his trees was a brown calico cat that blended in almost perfectly with the mulch. Almost. But Bo saw him. Bo suddenly bolted, and with the leash attached to my right wrist he suddenly jerked me off my knees to the pavement, landing on the right side of my chest.
While I am stretched out in the road, I hear a car coming around the curve. Great. I’m on my side in the road and the phone is on the pavement to my left. If only the phone is about to get smashed by the oncoming car that will be great. I just hope he doesn’t hit me.
Fortunately the driver saw me and stopped. I recovered the phone, got up, and walked on. My chest is a little sore and hurts a little when I cough, but I don’t think I broke a rib. We went on around the curve and Bo spotted the cat again, once more in the next tree bed around the curve. Fortunately I was on my feet and could stop another rush at the cat.
Now I ask you – am I justified in beating the dog tonight?
Now, in his younger years, Dad would not have asked permission of any sort. What crazy stranglehold does this dog have on Dad? Sadly, my mother’s take on it came minutes later via Dad’s second email:
Doris just said, “The only thing worse would have been if Bo got away.”
HELLO – How about if the car had flattened me? Would that maybe have been worse than Bo getting away?
It is so sad to see a parent start to slip away, to become a shell of the person they once were. Dad, I promise when I select your assisted living home, it will be the best money can buy.