“She’s my very best friend,” my mother said. “Friends are important.”

Other than Edie, her closest friend in grade school, I’ve never known my mother to have a girlfriend, let alone a “very best” friend. She’s never been chummy with other women, a self-professed seeker of solitude. But finding a best friend in the very place I worried she would never adapt to?

Almost as startling as her disrobing in the care home parking lot after our walk down the greenbelt yesterday.

Mom’s acceptance of this new world continues to shatter my expectations. I worried she’d never join in. Last week, she led a gardening activity, helping other residents plant marigolds and marjoram. I worried she’d want to go back to Maine. Now, when I take her out to lunch, she can’t wait to return to her “house.” And her bestie.

Did you know:  Loneliness could be as dangerous to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day?

Dog Days

My life is ruled by dogs. Morning walks. Potty breaks. Belly rubs. Squeaky toys. Moments measured in kibbles.

Leashes and tennis balls are the tools of my trade.

I’m an occasional petsitter, a job I serendipitously stumbled upon after agreeing to watch a friend’s dog during her vacation.

It sounds like the ideal job. Easy money. Playing fetch all day. But when the pet parent worries like a mom on the first day of school and requires hourly texts, or the pup has separation anxiety and won’t eat, or I accidentally set off the house alarm?

These are real-world petsitting problems.

It may not be the most lucrative career, but it gives me time to write. To think. A brief sabbatical from my real job: caring for a mom with Alzheimer’s.

Taking care, in any form, gives my life purpose.

Emotional Rescue

Therapy dogs. They provide support for cancer patients. Disabled individuals. And certainly those with dementia.

Each week, I bring Max, my eight-month-old rescue lab, to visit my mother. She and the residents at her new memory care home love this puppy. He’s just like them. He rambles the halls with restless energy. His attention span is as short as the commercials that play on the activity room’s TV. He lives in the moment like his new friends. Calendars and clocks are meaningless.

He’s the perfect remedy for dementia, bringing joy to those who are often lonely and discontent.

And now, Mom’s caregiving team has a four-legged addition.

The side effect of this prescription is as healing as its benefits: emotional support for the caregiver. Max delights the staff at the care home, too. And he helps me stay positive.