A priceless Gucci

Two days after I became an emergency admit, I moved into this nursing home in Southeastern Ohio, at the age of 47. My former caregiver brought me clothes, personal items, and my Schnauzer/Yorkie mix, Gucci. I looked at her strangely wondering who told her she could leave my dog with me.

Gucci was chained in my room and slept on her own bed. As an incomplete quadriplegic, I rode through the facility with her on my lap. Some residents loved to see her, but I kept Gucci away from those who seemed not to like dogs. The administrator said he would see if Gucci could be the home’s dog, since some have pets. I was pleased he was giving Gucci a chance, but I did not think she would fit in. I was concerned that a wanderer might scare her.

An old photo of Gucci and me

In the daytime, Gucci stayed in my room. Maintenance employees, housekeepers, and aides walked her or chained her outside while they were working. Sometimes after meals staff would let her loose and she ran to the dining room to clean up food on the floor. Night shift let Gucci follow them around and she had a great time playing and eating goodies. Eventually, I scolded them because she gained weight.

One day, as I watched TV and Gucci slept, “Grandma” (a wandering female resident) came into my room. My call light went on for help. Grandma reached for Gucci. Gucci moved and nipped. Grandma squealed, winced, and grabbed her hand. An aide soon walked Grandma out of my room.

Grandma went to the ER for stitches. The next day I was asked if Gucci’s shots were current and I assured staff that her vet record could be faxed to them. Grandma’s granddaughter begged that my dog be allowed to stay. She knew that her wandering grandmother was difficult to control.

The social worker said Gucci had to leave. The administrator hated it, but said even putting Gucci in a dog crate would not ensure the residents’ safety-or her own. He also felt that a crate was unfair and somewhat cruel for a 10-year-old dog. I told the social worker that Gucci was a pound puppy and she would not return there. If necessary, I would have her put to sleep. That statement alarmed staff but I considered it a valid option. I had no time to find a proper home for Gucci and I did not want her to suffer.

Later, two nurses came in and each offered to give Gucci a good home. One nurse loved Gucci and she had a 12-year-old daughter I felt Gucci would enjoy. I agreed to have her take her. As she packed Gucci’s things, she put in her water bowl-an adoption gift from the pound. At that point I was in tears. I pleaded with the nurse, “Please, put her water in it for awhile so she can adapt.” Tearfully, she said she would. I had my last cuddle session with Gucci, and she was gone.

I missed Gucci and talked about her, but I felt she had the best home possible under the circumstances. I hoped she would get her allergy pills and special food. Gucci was brought to visit three or four times. She jumped in my lap and wanted to stay. During a visit I noticed her coat was obviously thinning, which upset me. I asked that she not visit again because it was difficult for me.

Gucci was a great dog. However, I would not have wanted her to remain here and lose her freedom. A few years later, that nurse’s grown daughter worked here as an aide. She said Gucci lived several years and enjoyed life with her adopted family.

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Southeastern Ohio for the past 13 years.

To sent your comments to the editor, e-mail mhrehocik@iadvanceseniorcare.com.

Long-Term Living 2009 September;58(9):64

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