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My Pet World: Dog and mom still need each other

June 07, 2011|By Steve Dale

Question: Please help settle a family dispute. My 91-year old mother lives 70 miles away in an independent living facility. Her memory is failing, as she was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Pets are allowed, but residents need to be able to care for them.

I'm the only sibling who supports the idea of Mom keeping her beloved Charlie Boy. He's a 10-year-old miniature poodle who adores Mom as much as she adores him. We pay a staff person to walk Charlie twice a day. Do you think we're being fair to Charlie? And how do we deal with other care Charlie may need? — B.J., Miami

Answer: While I don't know your mom or Charlie, it seems clear they love one another. As long as you have Charlie's basic needs covered, you're set. I assume a staff member can make sure your mom remembers to give Charlie food and water. It would be nice if a relative, friend, or staff member could offer Charlie a somewhat longer walk once or twice a week. Then again, he's not a spring chicken and likely doesn't need much more than the chance to "go potty" three or four times daily. To insure that Charlie stays in good health, it's important that he visit a vet twice a year. Also, someone must be responsible for administering flea and heartworm protection.

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As your mother's capabilities diminish, it will be beneficial to have one constant in her life. And while Charlie won't care much about Mom's failing memory, he will continue to love her unconditionally. In fact, over time, I'll bet you see their bond grow even stronger. At some point, Charlie might be the only one in the room who really knows what Mom is thinking.

Q: We took Macy to the vet and ever since she's been urinating outside the box a lot. I know it's her, and not Steven, because I've witnessed her doing this. Both are strictly indoor cats. Any advice? — B.J., Boston.

A: "After a visit to the veterinary clinic, Macy might look the same to Steven, but she smells like an entirely different cat," says Darlene Arden, cat behavior consultant, and author of "The Complete Cat's Meow" (Wiley Publishing, New York, NY, 2011; $19.99). From Steven's perspective, a smelly imposter has invaded the house.

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