I’ve written before on this blog about having a keen interest in studies that involve dementia, Alzheimer’s and overall cognitive health, while also maintaining a healthy skepticism. This week a preliminary study about how having a pet could benefit cognitive health made the rounds on social media. Those of us who are pet owners know how much love and joy they can bring to our lives. But it’s also important to understand and be able to manage the challenging moments as they age and develop health issues of their own.
The study found that those who had owned pets for five or more years were able to delay cognitive decline by 1.2 points vs. those in the study who did not have pets over a six-year period. The study analyzed cognitive data of more than 1,300 adults age 50 or over. While researchers were only able to establish an association, not a cause and effect with this study, the findings support prior research in this area.
Pets offer loyal companionship and keep us on a routine. Dog ownership encourages daily walks, and regular exercise has been demonstrated to have cognitive benefits. By just being their unique and adorable selves, pets can offer us moments of joy that help relieve stress and lift our spirits. As a society, we should do everything we can to make sure elders and those with health issues have the support they need to keep their beloved pets with them, whether its at home or in a residential facility.
I cannot imagine my life without my pets, but I also accept the considerable responsibility that I have in maintaining their well-being. If you have elder loved ones with pets, check on them to make sure that there are no care issues that need to be addressed.
I hope you had a peaceful holiday season. Mine was spent mourning my beloved cat Rosalie, but the holiday break allowed me time to honor her memory in various ways. Her urn arrived this week, and Katie Patton of Blocks from the Heart has done such a magnificent job in capturing Rosalie’s spirit.
And to usher in the new year, I took the plunge and adopted a pair of tuxedo cats named Dorian and Serena. They are young, just a year and a half. I do feel like Rosalie’s untimely passing was a signal from the universe that an opportunity was presenting itself to welcome a new energy into my home and my life. It was a rude awakening, but one that I hope will inspire new endeavors into my caregiving advocacy work. Adopting young cats is also a good lesson in letting go of routines and looking at things from a new perspective … like when a kitty climbs to the top of the kitchen cabinets!
As for vision … I attend a monthly women’s healing circle that involves a variety of spiritual disciplines and meditations. It’s been a virtual respite during the isolation of the pandemic. Each year, the teacher draws a spirit word for each participant, and mine for 2022 is vision. I’m interested in exploring that concept.
To kick off the year, I’m taking a course in children’s book writing. I have an idea for a children’s book that would feature my rescue dog Murphy’s story and connect it to children who have also experienced trauma. I don’t know what will come of it, but I think it is good to flex the writing muscles in a new direction.
On the legislative front, I hope some of the caregiving initiatives can be salvaged from the BBB plan. I know I sound like a broken record, but caregiving issues deserves bipartisan support because it’s something that touches all of our lives, regardless of political beliefs. Caregivers, from frontline hospital and nursing home workers to family members tending to loved ones at home, have sacrificed so much and it’s well past time that we as a society support better funding so that they get the support they need.
I had to say goodbye to my beloved Rosalie two days before Christmas. She went into respiratory distress and a large mass was found on her trachea, which was almost entirely blocking her airway and ability to breathe. Because of its location, her age, and her condition, there were no realistic treatment options. I decided to let her go while she was still under anesthesia from the diagnostic procedure so she could slip out of this world as peacefully as possible.
Rosalie came into my life at the worst of times (my mother dying) and departed during another tough period of my life. I was fortunate to get six years with her delightful spirit. She was by far the easiest cat I’ve ever cared for and very affectionate. While I’ve loved the timid cats that I’ve adopted over the years, Rosalie was not shy at all. Nothing much seemed to spook her. She lived every day soaking up the simple pleasures of life (sitting on the heat vent or napping on the heated blanket during the winter, enjoying food, being petted, knocking her favorite crinkle ball toys under the couch) and I would marvel at how content and relaxed she was no matter what strife I and/or the world was facing.
I may have jinxed her by thinking she could be my “20 year old cat,” because she had the calm and happy-go-lucky demeanor that centenarians often have. Alas, cancer claimed her just a month after her 15th birthday.
The day I adopted Rosalie I put aside my normal common sense and went with my gut instinct. It was just days after another one of my beloved cats had died and many people would have felt it was too soon to adopt another. The weather that day was dreadful and for any other event or task, I would have opted out. Navigating through violent thunderstorms, I arrived at the shelter and met with Rosalie just minutes before another adopter arrived asking about her. From that fateful beginning, Rosalie and I forged a special bond.
She taught me that sometimes rules and traditions are meant to be broken and she could have taught a master class in self-care. I will be forever grateful that the universe brought her into my life.
In honor of what would’ve been my father’s 84th birthday, I’m publishing the infamous “cat rant” that prompted a viral response back when we argued with each other in newsprint, not online.
I had been searching online for the letter for years, but as I was putting together a scrapbook for my dad, I came across dozens of letters to the editor clippings. The cat letter, along with the responses it generated, was in the pile. I was ecstatic.
The funniest thing is that I thought the letter my dad wrote was much longer and talked about how the stray cats would hang on the back fence of our patio and intimidate people taking out the garbage or going to the laundry room. Maybe Dad’s original letter was longer, and was edited for space. But reading it now, and admittedly a huge cat lover myself, it doesn’t sound as bad as I remembered.
You can zoom in with your browser if you want to read the details. Basically Dad says he doesn’t like cats, that they don’t do anything good for anyone, and that cats are lazy, sensitive and jealous. He also laments being late to work because of a cat curled up under his car. He finishes the rant by saying that cats are an abomination. “I just can’t stand the little devils.”
But the responses are great! Who knew there were so many crazy cat ladies (and I use that term endearingly as I am one) in the Los Angeles area in the 1980s? And the fact that it prompted one of the newspaper’s columnists to write his own editorial response is fantastic. His criticism that readers get more outraged over someone who doesn’t like cats but ignore the wars taking place around the world still applies today.
The image of the mother cat and her kitten is included to show how my dad’s opinion on cats changed over the years. When he was working as a security guard at a trucking company, he met a stray cat that everyone called Bonita. The cat may not have been the most beautiful, but she touched my dad’s heart. When she became pregnant Dad made sure she had enough food to eat. Even after he no longer worked there, he’d stop by and leave her some canned food for her and the babies.
As Dad’s Alzheimer’s progressed, he would ask me how my cat “Missouri” was doing. (My cat’s name was Michigan.) So in the end, Dad turned out to like the “little devils” quite a bit.
I don’t think Dad ever met a cat he liked until he fell in love with Bonita.
To be fair, until that point, the only cats that our family had any contact with were the strays that would drape themselves across our fence and yowl at the top of their lungs in the middle of the night. My dad wrote a famous (in our family) letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times about the stray cat scourge in our neighborhood, creating a firestorm of controversy and making my dad Public Enemy #1 in the eyes of local crazy cat ladies. (And I use that term in a most loving way, as I’m now one of their most fervent members.)
Bonita the cat with one of her kittens.
When my dad became a security guard, there were lots of lonely nights patrolling the trucking company he worked at. One of his fellow co-workers introduced him to Bonita. She was a scruffy, suspicious feline, a street-smart cat that was weary of the streets. She may also have been weary because she was pregnant.
Dad fell for Bonita pretty hard. He started bringing her cans of food nightly. He would provide us with regular updates. He would mimic how he called her name and how she would come running up to him. (I’m guessing the sound of the can opening was the real reason, but if Dad thought he was the reason, so be it.) Bonita had her kittens and then there was a family of felines to feed. Perhaps some of the kittens were trapped and adopted, I’m not sure. But Bonita remained. She had probably never known the inside of a loving home and probably never did in her entire life.
But there was Dad and the other workers, who at least provided her with the basic necessities. Months after my dad stopped working there he would return, to feed a stray cat named Bonita that was anything but pretty but to my dad, was a friend in need.