The Value of Pets in the Caregiver Process

The caregiver process… taking care of an ill loved one… is an up and down ride minute by minute. There are good days when your loved one is coherent, not in a lot of pain, and seems to be the familiar person you’d grown up with. There are days… even moments, when you loved one is a stranger, seems to be inconsolable or even mean.

It’s often difficult to separate out the pieces of yourself and your loved one during these fluctuating times. But I’d remembered so clearly the times when something so simple as a grandchild or a pet could cause a moment of solace and glee!

I’d remembered two pets, in particular, who had brought job and love to my ill parents. One had been my dog, Oso Bear. He’d been a red-haired chow who had captured my whole family’s heart from the first moment! I actually thought I’d have to go to court to get custody of him from my Mama and Daddy (and brothers!) because everyone had wanted him!

My Mama and Daddy and I had come to an agreement that while I’d been at work, they could have Oso with them. And it had been so good for them both!

For Daddy, Oso had burrowed under his legs, waiting to be petted. Daddy, even with his Parkinson’s disease, had pet Oso with his shaky hands. But Oso hadn’t cared. He’d loved the touch and it had been great for Daddy as well!

For Mama, Oso had provided protection and security. She’d known that Oso had protected them; scaring strangers away from the door with his deep bark. If Daddy had needed help, Oso had let Mama know.

The second little miracle had come in the form of a kitten!

By that point, Daddy had passed and Mama had become the ill loved one I’d been caring for. My siblings and I had consulted with each other about getting Mama a pet. We hadn’t been sure if it would have been a dog or cat until we’d gone to the local animal shelter and looked around. There, we’d found a Siamese kitten.

I’d remembered the look on Mama’s face when we’d brought the kitten home to her. Mama’s eyes had opened wide with excitement! We’d felt the magic burst throughout the room. She’d named the kitten Milkshake and it had stayed by her side almost every moment. Mama had really loved playing and petting that cat, and it had been an experience of more smiles and mutual love!

Pets had helped us all. Besides giving unconditional love and affection to our ill loved one, we, the caregivers, had benefited as well. We’d seen our loved ones happier but also, we’d appreciated the love we’d received from those furry little angels, too!


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