Our dog Zeus had a bit of excitement last week. I was driving to the grocery store when Ralph called and announced that Zeus had been in combat with a wild boar, or at least a feral pig, or maybe a domestic hog that got loose. Whatever it was—Ralph said it had black hair and weighed a lot more than Zeus—must have drawn the dogs’ attention while they were in the yard outside Ralph’s workroom. Ralph said he heard a ruckus and found Ralph in a dried gulley with his teeth in the pig/boar’s neck and the pig/boar trying to get at Zeus. Somehow Ralph managed to separate them and the pig/boar ran off. (If you are thinking, ohmyGod, Ralph could have been badly hurt himself, I know I know but can’t dwell on it or I’ll go nuts.)

I could tell Ralph was upset and excited at the same time, basically on the adrenaline high anyone would experience under the circumstances, and he seemed surprisingly in control of the situation. He said he’d cleaned up Zeus who didn’t seem to have been hurt. By the time I got home with the groceries man and dog were already asleep and I assumed fine.

However the next morning, Zeus was definitely limping when I let him out for a pee. I had an appointment I couldn’t cancel and left soon after, having warned Ralph to check Zeus more thoroughly. Ralph called me half an hour later to say he’d found a gash near Zeus’s belly that he hadn’t noticed. By then I was driving through pouring rain, and my phone was barely working, so Ralph was pretty much on his own.

Although I directed him where to find the vet’s phone number on the fridge, Ralph called on his own, made an appointment and took the dog in by himself: In the poring rain. To the vet’s office that’s not on his usual driving radar.

When he called back to say that Zeus was scheduled for surgery and would be staying the night, he sounded definitely in control of the situation.

I was impressed. Guilty that I had not paid more attention to the situation. But mostly impressed, thinking that maybe I shouldn’t underestimate Ralph, that I need to recognize he is still up to handling a crisis.

Of course in the morning I did have to remind him where Zeus was and why. And luckily I was in the room when the vet called because afterwards Ralph wasn’t sure what the vet had just told him. I called back to give the vet office my number for future reference, they explained they wanted to keep Zeus an extra day. (Zeus is now something of a vet celebrity by the way, our own local Old Yeller, especially after they pulled coarse black hairs out of his mouth where Zeus lost a fang from biting down so hard.) Still, I was feeling really good about Ralph’s competence when we picked up Zeus and brought him home.

But here’s where things get sticky. The meds, morning and evening pills, I can deal with myself, but keeping Zeus inside, per the vet’s instructions, has depended on Ralph’s help. And this he seems incapable of remembering, any more than he can remember that the wound is on Ralph’s thigh not his stomach. Each time I catch Ralph and the dog outside, I go through the routine of reminding and explaining Zeus’s injury, his treatment and that he is supposed to be inside until the stitches heal. This recovery process is driving me crazy of course.

Gotta go make sure Zeus is in the house……

8 thoughts on “Our OLD YELLER Moment

  1. Hi Alice –
    Oh my, Old Yeller – brings back memories of Fess Parker, Daniel Boone, Davey Crocket, and Disney. One of our dogs had what was supposed to be minor surgery last spring. The first “cone of shame” was too small, then the wound got infected, and he recovered (completely, fortunately) about 10 days later than expected. Keeping this 50 pound, exuberant puppy quiet so he wouldn’t pop a stitch was a trip! Good luck.

    My layman’s understanding is that just about every cognitive domain/function has a primary location in our brains where they are performed, but also other, secondary sites where the same functions also get done to some degree. It would be interesting to ask your Emery docs on your next visit if we use a different part of our brain once the adrenaline gets pumping in a crisis – or perhaps all of it all at once, including secondary sites for functions where plaques and tangles haven’t spread yet? Maybe this is a version of cognitive reserve.

    In any event, Ralph’s performance is a useful reminder that we all (caregivers and care recipients alike, I suspect) tend to focus on what we don’t do so well anymore rather than on our skills and capabilities that remain. My wife constantly tries to do too much for me trying to be helpful (for which I’m grateful), and so I find myself reminding her that it’s to our mutual advantage to let me do as much as I can for as long as I can. I need to be pushed, I think, or I’ll just give in and decline faster than I should.

    By the way, my PET scan showed hypometabolism in my temporal and parietal lobes “consistent with Alzheimer’s.” Any reasonable basis for me denying where I’m headed is pretty much shot, I’m afraid. I’m trying to get in a couple of drug trials but, absent that, my neurologist thinks it’s time for meds. Sigh.


    1. The fact that you have your wife push you tells me you are in better shape than you may realize. Of course, I am always impressed with your insights and self-awareness. And what you bring up about adrenaline, as well as about recognizing what we do well along with what we don’t, is further proof–you articulate what I was aiming for so much better than I did.

      As for the PET scan results, taking the meds is not necessarily a bad thing under the circumstances. As I’ve mentioned before, the drugs have been a lifesaver for Ralph. His cognitive skills stopped sliding as soon as he went on the pills. And you may be heading somewhere but you don’t know how long it will take to get there, and you seem more capable than most at making the most of the time along the way……


    1. Oh my, I never considered that Old Yeller wasn’t known worldwide–it was a Disney movie in the fifties or sixties about a family with a big yellow dog that saved one of the children by fighting a wild boar but later contracted rabies –the greatest (or worst depending on your point of view) tearjerker of all times…..

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Funny, the cultural differences that still exist. Old Yeller is such an American institution. And just the other day, watching the American offshoot of The Great British Baking Show, I was shocked that Mary had never baked in an iron skillet or tasted coconut cream pie, both basics in our kitchens….


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