INCONTINENCE (3). The Biscuits.

The dog, who is so far reprieved, owing to apathy, and not to any great improvement in behaviour or continence, was standing square at ninety degrees to Mum’s head, in silence, as if he was staking her out.

I thanked the neighbour and said I would get mum up off the floor.
“Aw,”, she said, “do you know, the dog was just standing looking at your mum the whole time I was here. He’s so sweet!”

“Sweet!?!”, I interobanged, with my eyebrows.

She smiled at me and left. She is sweet.
I shut the door, went to the kitchen and picked mum up. She is pretty hefty, as one of the side effects of the drugs is weight gain. This is also a side effect of an Irish childhood, which engendered a love of potatoes and cake. Still, all that Pilates training hasn’t been for nothing, and I have been picking her up off the floor quite regularly since dad had been unable to do it, for about eighteen months now.
She was fine, but this will set her back again with pain and mobility.
“That dog’s very good you know,”, Mum said, as I handed her a cup of tea.  “He sticks to me like shit to a blanket.”
“He knows what side his blanket is buttered.”, I said.
“Hmmmph.”, she said.

I know that she knows that I know that his existence and her independence are co-dependent.

I was in a meeting on carers’ rights when I got the phone call telling me about the fall. Just before the meeting started I had been talking to an elderly gentleman whom I had noticed struggle out of his car earlier. He walked with a stick. He had been telling me how he cared for his wife, who was prone to falls, and had fallen last night, and also for his son, who can’t work any more because he has a condition where the cells walls of his vascular system break down, and are not strong enough to contain his blood, so that the vessels that he should be able to rely upon to transport his blood; veins and arteries, venioles and arterioles and capillaries,  all leak.  He seeps blood.
My new friend, the elderly gentleman, who someone really should be looking after, said, “You can just imagine the laundry bills.”. He was telling me how his son’s heating had broken down, and the chap who came to fix it, and had driven all the way up from Portsmouth, turned out to have been a college friend of this unfortunate son, who had been a talented draughtsman, designing air conditioning systems for flagship hospitals and airports. Apparently there are few of his calibre, and he is in high demand, but cannot work, ever again with pipes and tubes and drains as his own interior pipes and tubes and drains leak.

I didn’t get to hear any more because the meeting started and then I got the call from Age Uk. If mum has a fall, she presses a button on a pendant she wears around her neck, and I get a call. If I don’t answer, the organisation works down a list of my sons, the neighbour and finally my sister. By the time I got to mum’s, which was fifteen minutes after I got the call, two of my sons were texting me, and the neighbour was round, making her comfortable with a pillow.

So I have no idea if carers have any rights.

Later that day the dog started barking at the hall table. I thought he was barking at a picture of my brother in law, who hates him, but it turns out that he had noticed a dog biscuit that I had left behind the picture inadvertently, following an attempt to train him to lie down on his mat using treats the previous day. He wasn’t having that biscuit after the repercussions of my training. I put it in my pocket, and sat on it later.

The following happens nearly every day.

Kerry gets one dental stick a day, but he wants more, and he bullies my mum by barking at her intently, one eye trained on Mum and the other on the drawer where they are kept. Mum calls them ‘chewies’.
He is barking. He is shouting “CHEWIE CHEWIE CHEWIE CHEWIE CHEWIE CHEWIE……..”
I don’t want the dog bullying my mum. She has it hard enough as it is. I want the dog to leave her alone and lie down.
“Lie on your MAT!”.
(The cleverest dog can understand a couple of hundred or more words. This is not the cleverest dog. I keep it simple. I know he knows what I want him to do.).
He looks at me without moving his head and without stopping the flow of his barking. That glance is a moment of pure and concise communication between us, between human and dog. We both know where this is heading. What follows, me trying to instruct him, and him ignoring me, is simultaneously a superfluous, perverse and inevitable ritual.
“Lie on your MAT!”.
“LIE on your Goddam MAT!”. I make a move and he walks around the coffee table, past his mat, and barks at mum from the other side of her chair.
“Lie on your MAT!”.
I now grab his collar, and drag him over to his mat. His mat is more a soft and rather luxurious large cushion, but to keep it simple for this stupid dog I call it a “MAT”.
“LIE DOWN”. He won’t lie down, but he has stopped barking. He looks at me defiantly, “DOWN.” I push down on his haunches so that he has to sit. He is looking straight at me. The last thing he is going to do is anything I want him to do. He knows I want him prostrate, but he won’t lie down. He is the three year old recalcitrant toddler in the middle of a supermarket yelling “I WANT SWEETIES”. He is the thirteen year old who has been told to go to his room. “MAKE ME!” So I make him. I now have my hands firmly on both his rump and shoulders and I push him down.
He looks at me and waits precisely until my back is turned and gets up and attempts to regain his previous position and bark at mum again.
We repeat until Mum gets up to go to the loo. He won’t give in, but when mum is out of her chair, he forgets what he wanted and peace reigns again for a while.

The day before this was one of the days things were fairly relaxed, I was not too hard pressed and I gave in to my optimistic side. I waited until Kerry was fairly settled, and I trained him with treats and kindness. I knew very well that all foods other than the dried food ‘for senior dogs with skin problems and sensitive stomachs’ upset his sensitive stomach. The skin problems are past even this prophylaxis, but I thought the odd dog biscuit wouldn’t do any harm to his sensitive stomach. I had stopped issuing them daily because of the diarrhoea. But just three or four …….surely……..
Well that training session was a great success. Four sequences of “lie on your mat”, dragging him across the room, forcing him down, repeating the command, and rewarding him with half a biscuit, proved effective enough to get him to obey the instruction. On the third time he could take himself to his mat and lie down. Hurrah! I made myself believe that it would have a lasting effect.
The day moved on. I took him out for his walk.

At the end of the block he squatted and diarrhoea issued. I sighed. Three dog biscuits had brought us to this. I had one tatty plastic bag with me. I turned it inside out and grabbed the squit. Fortunately it’s autumn and I was able to wipe the grass over with leaves, which I then picked up. There are two schools in the area and he copiously decorated the grass verges outside both. I did my best. Sorry, girls.
The next day we reverted back to our previous pattern.
“Lie on your MAT! Damn your eyes!”.



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