Dignity.

Ask him how he isHi it’s Jack here… Not such a great weekend for me. I ate something on Friday, that didn’t agree with my stomach (tasted great but my stomach disagreed!!) I woke up very early on Saturday morning because I really, really needed to go outside for…well you know… eh, kind of embarrassing but I really needed to go. The next problem? 4.00 am and the rest of the pack still asleep… !! I went upstairs (I am not usually allowed upstairs), and went into their bedroom. The Cat languidly raised her head, gave me full volume Cat Stare and said “Oh go on then, if you really have to…” I gently licked the Owner’s arm and woke him. He opened his eyes, looked at me from the bed and said “It’s ok Jack, I know what it’s like.” He took me downstairs, let me outside and then waited for me to finish (which took a little while!!) When I came back in he patted me on the head, and said “Good boy Jack, now back to bed.”

Boy, was I relieved, mentally as well as the other way. He didn’t get mad, he didn’t complain, he just understood that something which might not be such a big deal for some, was a big deal for me. He understands that dignity plays a very important part in everyone’s life, and that for me, an accident on the rug would be mortally embarrassing, never mind messy on the rug!! Worst of all… I would never hear the end of it from you know who.

The Owner works from home, so I get to see him doing his job quite a bit. I love watching him work when he is on top of his game, doing what he does best and enjoying it. On a good Parkinsons day, when everything falls into place, and he’s able to work at full throttle… well, he really treasures those moments. It’s only now that the penny has dropped for me and I realise just how important his dignity is to him… to still be able to be viewed, valued and validated as a professional, to still be able to earn the respect of his colleagues, peers and clients. And for him that’s a big deal.

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Why does the medicine not make him better??

Accepting

Hi it’s Jack… Last Saturday I was on the couch with my Owner, watching the All Black’s v Scotland rugby match. One of my jobs is to guard the TV remote from all threats, including the Cat and as you can see from the picture I do it pretty well. In reality though, I just love being on the couch with him , he knows it, I know it, even the Cat knows it.

A thought struck me (happens once in a blue moon!) My Owner takes his 3 tablets, a yellow one, a white one and an orange one, 3 times a day every day… but the weird thing is he doesn’t seem to be getting better!! I have been with him for 3 years (human ones!!) and he just seems to be getting worse, not better. He freezes a lot more, he get’s tired quicker and he shakes a lot more. I can help with the freezing, I just give him a nudge on the knee, and as for the shaking? I just put my head on his lap and that usually calms him down. There is however nothing I can do about the tiredness and this really worries me, because I won’t be here for ever and what will happen when I am gone? So what is going on???!!! All this medicine, for all these people and yet they still get sick and not only that, but they get sicker?

Soooo… only because she has been with the family longer than I have, I swallowed my pride and asked the Cat “What’s going wrong with his medicine? Why doesn’t he get better?” Her response was a jaw dropper… “The medicine doesn’t make the disease go away, it just makes the symptoms go away… and for a while.” I thought she had misunderstood the question and was just about to ask her again when she fixed me with The Cat Stare and said “You heard me right first time, the medicine does not treat the disease, just the symptoms.”

My Owner want’s to dance with his daughter on her wedding day, he wants to do this so very much. The only way for this will happen is a cure for Parkinson’s and soon, because I won’t be here to look after him for ever.

So please work together; the medical community, politicians, pharmaceutical companies, patients, their families and friends… All of you working together, you can do this. How? Neurology is underfunded in most countries, so demand more from the politicians you vote for to make it a priority. Stay current with the research and most importantly, please, please continue to support the patients their families and friends.

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Ask him how he is…he won’t bite and neither will I.

Jack... A Dog's View of Family life Living With Parkinson's

Ask him how he is...

Hi my name is Jack. I am a working dog. I received no special training like a guide dog or a police dog. My job is to help my owner, he has Parkinson’s Disease. It’s not a secret, he doesn’t hide it, and he knows how difficult it can be for you, to ask him how he is…he won’t bite and neither will I.

I see how tough it is for the people that love him, when the day is a struggle, walking is tough and his hand is shaking. You don’t want to ask him for fear of the answer, or the tears that may come. It’s easier for me, I am a dog; I put my head on his lap and he knows that I love him.

When I first came to live with him, it scared me, I couldn’t understand why some days he was fine and…

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Acceptance and Learning to say… “I just cannot do that..this week!!”

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For all those who have asked… No!! I have still not caught the cat (her name is Moggy, and no…. I didn’t get to name her.) Thinking about that makes me wonder if I will ever catch her. I am after all 10, in Dog years which is getting on a bit (still looking good!!) so I may simply have to learn to accept, that there are some things I just cannot do anymore and may never be able to do again. The Owner whose Parkinson’s progresses, needs to face up to this 2. He needs to be honest with himself and everyone around him and learn to accept the limitations imposed and to not be afraid to say… “I just cannot do that..”

Earlier, especially when first diagnosed he used to pretend it didn’t affect him, tried to persuade himself that this was not really happening to him. Then when his body finally told him it was happening to him for real he fought it and that only made matters worse. On good days he thought he could do anything and everything he had always done. On bad days, there would be despair… he’d blame himself and anyone else close enough to be caught in the crossfire between his body and his brain. He tried to hide it from everyone including himself. A dark cloud of depression would settle over him that could not be easily dispelled.

Finally he realised that the only person feeling sorry for himself was yes indeed… himself. He could waste the rest his life with self-pity or he could participate in life… with his marriage, his family, with his friends, and with his work. He learnt to take one day at a time,  and that accepting the limitations that Parkinson’s imposes on him is absolutely not the same as giving up… it is the smart thing to do. By devoting his resources to where they were needed most, not just by him but by all of those around him he rediscovered the joy of being a father, a husband, a son, a colleague and most of all of just being himself. He still falters occasionally, but he recognises it, stop and says to himself “I cannot do that today… but maybe I can tomorrow!”

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We all need somebody to lean on.

We All Need

I am 10. Which according to some very complicated human formula is supposed to make me 70 in “dog years”, whatever “dog years” are. In my book that still makes me 10, and looking good. One of my owners friends is in his 50’s (human years!!) has a wife and 3 children, and last week he told my owner that he had been recently diagnosed with cancer. His wife has been sick for a long time… sometimes we all need somebody to lean on.

So step up owner and friends… what did they do? They went to the pub on a Thursday evening, a school night!! In the privacy of the snug with 2 other friends they drank Guinness, so much in fact that Friday didn’t really happen (they really are not as young as they think they are!!). But they had a great time, they smiled, laughed, and in general didn’t take themselves too seriously, amongst friends that’s ok and is very worthwhile.

Gave my family pause for thought too, sometimes we need to step out of our normal day-to-day and realise that there are other families with much greater challenges to face than our own. They do so with inspirational grace, humour and steadfast belief. In a very quiet and dignified way they just get on with life, no complaints, no drama, no blame.

Our job? Is to remember that some days even superheroes wear their underpants inside their clothes and that on those days we all need somebody to lean on. So lean on me when you are not strong…

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