The Puppy in the Memory Care Center

Barclay, the 6 month old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, walks on his leash in the pastor’s hand down the long first floor hall of the memory care center. People stop and smile. Barclay paws at their legs, scaring a few, but mostly arousing greater desire to touch his soft, fluffy fur.

This is Barclay’s first experience in the memory care center. It’s also his first ride on an elevator. We take the elevator to the second floor.

I knock on the door. We walk in the room to see a parishioner who loves dogs. She’s always had a dog before she lost her independence. Barclay goes to the bed, puts his paws on the side of the bed, and begs to be lifted to say hello to Susan. Susan’s eyes open wide. “Oh, my!” she says. Her face is beaming. I lift Barclay to meet Susan. She reaches out to touch and is delighted by his softness. He licks her face, kisses her mouth, brings her to the rapture only a puppy can at this point in her dying life. There is no time. Time disappears. There is no then. No there. No anywhere but here, no time but now in puppy time on the second floor of the memory care center where Susan doesn’t know she is.

There is NOTHING in this world like a puppy. He just loves everyone the same whether or not we know our own names. Is it a coincidence that ‘dog’ spelled backwards Is ‘god’?

Barclay is watching from the floor. His “owner” is doing something with Susan. “Dad” tales Susan’s hand. They’re holding hands. They close their eyes. Dad is talking in a peaceful tone of voice Barclay hasn’t heard before. It’s very quiet in the room. Susan’s face relaxes and is at peace. Long after Dad has stopped talking, Susan’s eyes stay closed. They hold hands for a long time in the silence. She is at peace. Maybe Susan has gone to be with dog.

8 thoughts on “The Puppy in the Memory Care Center

  1. You bring back memories of taking our cavvie hospital visiting. The effect he had with stroke and dementia patients was so special. I still recall those encounters with a great deal of fondness. I clearly remember several of the patients who not respond to anything else in their world, but would be very happy to “be with dog.” And then also some very entertaining conversations with much younger stroke patients with verbal aphasia, where Connell (our cavvie) acted as translator. He alone perhaps understood both sides of the conversation – as all humans speak dog.


  2. Beautiful. Thanks so much for writing. My grandparents are struggling, living in the same house, yet they don’t know each other. Perhaps I should get them a puppy for Christmas.


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