Three days ago I tied up my well worn Nike's and went for a walk. Almost 6 months to the day since I broke my ankle. I've been taking short walks with Buddy. If you can call them walks. For a dog that is not only teacher's pet, and an A+ student in class, walking around the block is no "walk in the park" (pun intended). It's mostly sniffing. If there's something stinky out there, Buddy is the one to find it. His non-discriminating palate can zero in on a cat turd like a drone searching for an ISIS stronghold.
Adolescence for a dog usually occurs around 6 or 7 months. From what the trainer tells us, this period of time is a combination of terrible twos and puberty. So far, he's right on track. He has developed some doggy pimples on his chin, which I attribute to his constant drool. His adult coat has come in, replacing soft puppy fur. His bark has deepened to something a junk yard dog might use to scare people away. In Buddy's case, it's more funny than frightening. He has learned from his big sister, how to stare out the front window and warn us of possible stranger danger. For all his teenage characteristics, he is scared of loud noises and still suckles himself to sleep on his fake fleece bed. We refer to it as his "mama" bed.
Today is Buddy's 8 month birthday. If I could get him on a scale, I'm pretty sure it would hit the 70 pound mark or more. Wrestling a 70 pound bundle of inquisitive, leash-yanking, tripodding (putting on the brakes and locking his hind legs into an I'm-not-moving stance) dog and fighting to lead rather be dragged, does not make for a fun walk or cardiac workout. My elbow, shoulder and back, however, have been well exercised. I come home drenched in sweat.
I consider my almost 2.5 mile walk around the neighborhood quite an accomplishment. My toes still tingle. My ankle still swells. But there's no pain. This means, I hope, that I can get back to my daily walk routine.
We went to the neurologist this week for a 3-month check up. With no discernible differences in his memory or behavior these visits feel a tad pointless while, at the same time, like there's one of those black cartoon bombs with a lit sparkler on the end sitting under the examination table.
Like most doctor appointments, these are pretty routine. Blood pressure, temperature and oxygen rate taken. Prescription list updated. I don't know about Sweetie, but I don't start getting nervous until the doctor actually makes an appearance. It's those memory questions that worry me.
Doctor: "I'm going to say three words, then you repeat after me."
Sweetie has to stay focused cause the doctor continues asking questions.
D: What day is it?
D: What city are we in?
D: Copy this picture.
Nothing real challenging, unless you're brain is shrinking. The doctor sits at his computer, recording Sweetie's responses. Then, as if it's no big deal, he asks the killer question - what were those three words.
I realize these questions are not about me, that Sweetie is the patient. But I always breathe a little easier if I can silently repeat them. Apple, blue, and glasses now reside in a spot in my brain, that I return to over and over as a mini-check of my own memory, which, let's face it, is not as sharp as it once was.
The main achievement of this appointment is that Sweetie has been ok'd for a PET scan. While there is no definitive diagnosis of ALZ until an autopsy is done after the patient has died. MRI and CT scans can give a few clues. The PET scan is the best. It's more detailed. It's also expensive which is why the insurance company has been balking at the cost for 18 months. And here's the kicker, even after the test, we may be still not know any more than we know now.
I could tell Sweetie felt frustrated. He was silent but his body language screamed WTF? Silence hung in the air between us like humidity on a hot Florida afternoon.
Almost home, Sweetie yelled as he banged his fist on the steering wheel, "Do I have ALZ or not?"
There's the question we may never be able to answer. Needless to say, it's frustrating. For now we know the medication is controlling Sweetie's memory loss. Maybe that's all we need to know.