Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Caregiver Grind

Murphy is gone, and I will miss him. I'll miss the alert, intelligent, happy, feisty little character who was my roommate and BFF for so many years. I won't miss the caregiving grind of the last year or so as his health continued to fail, which just intensified until I had to plan my life around it. Even before this last year, I had been planning my life around Murphy's needs. When I remodeled the condo I spent a ton of money on flooring that would be easy to clean, because he had his occasional relapses of lymphangiectasia and sudden bouts of diarrhea. Those became more frequent in the last couple of years, and then were accompanied by urinary incontinence. He wouldn't use potty pads, and restricting him to one room didn't really make any difference, the number of puddles and poops remained the same, whether I was spot cleaning a larger space or intensively cleaning a smaller one.

It got to the point that I was planning his meals and not thinking about my own. Gae nailed it in her comment below: food and meds and hand feeding and cleanup and watching for new symptoms is what we do when we love our animals (and humans, for that matter), and when that stops, it leaves a gap in your life. I've been thinking of all the things that fell away from my own life as Murphy's needs took precedence. It was nearly as intensive as the years of my husband's illness.

I lived with it all, cleaned it up, loved him and swore at him (he couldn't hear the swearing and didn't care). I didn't give up until he couldn't eat and was in pain and it was so obvious that this time it was not going to get better. But God, it really was hard and exhausting and draining. I would get home from work around 6:30 and plunge into an hour of animal care before I gave a thought to my own dinner, which I would finally throw together and eat around 8 o'clock. Bedtime was 9:30, and I'd get up at 5 and start it all over again. Yoga, knitting, walking, planning and preparing healthy food for myself, it all fell away as his needs took up more and more of my life. Entertaining? Forget it. I couldn't invite people over to a house that often smelled awful and was booby trapped with puddles.

I will always miss the happy, healthy, bossy little dog, and I will always think of him as the bright-eyed little boss in the blog header. He was already sick when that picture was taken and his prognosis was poor, but we went on for another 5 years together. I will try to forget the way he was for the last year, and I definitely will be glad to get out of the caregiver grind. I need to get a life again. I'm looking forward to mopping the floors a couple of times a week instead of several times a day, and not going through a roll of paper towels in a day, and the bags of smelly garbage, and all the rest. I'm looking forward to starting my new job with a shorter commute - that alone will give me an extra 10+ hours of usable time each week.

I've missed walking, and cooking, and especially yoga. I have little girl sweaters to knit. I'm starting a new job tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to a new phase of my life. It will include yoga and throw rugs. (I had to throw away all the rugs years ago, you can figure out why.)

And walks. Lots of walks. Sophie and I will be fine as we adjust to our new normal.


carlarey said...

I know exactly how you feel.

Good luck with the new job. You and Sophie deserve this new phase of life. I hope you both enjoy it to the fullest.

Anonymous said...

Having lived with an incontinent dog for 9 years, I absolutely understand the cleaning grind. I spent more on wee-wee pads and paper towels (my guy would use them, but liked to aim to hit two at a time, and I had to paper a lot of floor) than I spent on food. I tried all kinds of cleaners as well, it's taken me several years to be able to smell white vinegar without associating it with pee. Not that I didn't love him, but now I don't spend my first 20 minutes home cleaning up and wiping up after him. And I totally get the rug situation.

Enjoy taking care of yourself and Sophie.

-- Milissa

Catherine said...

Murphy had sudden lymphangiectasia relapses that meant surprise stink and carpet scrubbing (until I did away with carpet), but he felt awful about it, and was otherwise always the cleanest of dogs. I will always remember him holding his pee for 14 hours during a hurricane, even though I would not have cared if he'd had to go on the tile floor. Later, he would have an attack of diarrhea but hold his pee until he got outside. It was only in the last year that both became highly unpredictable.

FireDragon said...

Oh so sorry to hear that Murphy passed.