The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Embracing Lewy

When my son, Ken, was in grade school, he came home one day with a dog—a big hairy thing with little to recommend her as a pet. Ken said she followed him and even when he told her to get lost, she just slinked along after him. “Can we keep her, Mom?” Foolishly, I said yes. Ken named her Cleo.

Cleo peed on the carpet and chewed up the sofa and stole food off the table.  She spread hair throughout the house and wouldn’t come when we called her. Sometimes I wanted to beat her, but I’d seen beaten dogs—they could be ferocious, giving back what they’d learned. And so instead, we used affection and continuity. Cleo was never the well-mannered lap dog I’d have preferred, but as we accepted her as a member of our family, she did become bearable and even at times, enjoyable.

Lewy is a lot like Cleo. It comes uninvited and refuses to leave. If you try to ignore it, it acts out and makes your lives miserable. If you fight Lewy and try to beat it into submission, it can become ferocious. But if you accept that it has come to stay and treat it gently, even embrace it with love, Lewy will cause you much less grief. 

There were things that would set Cleo off—like car horns. When one honked, she’d go berserk, barking and racing around and around long after the honking had stopped. I learned that I could calm Cleo down by giving her something she liked. I could give her a bone and she’d forget the horn and chew happily on her bone for hours.

Stress sets Lewy off too—almost any kind, from environmental to pain to the frustrations of the disease itself. And like Cleo, Lewy likes certain things too: Calmness, security, continuity, loving touches, simplicity. Make these happen, and Lewy will act out less and be easier to live with.  

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