Bryn the dog on what it takes to be a Side by Side Project volunteer

Bryn the dog is a Side by Side volunteer who works as a therapy dog. Read about what he got up to in January in his work with dementia.

Not every dog can be a therapy dog you know. Most of us make fabulous friends in some way or another, but it takes just the right temperament to be a volunteer like me ...

Bryn the volunteer

I know about this as I have a furry little sister called Kelsey. She joined our home a couple of years ago after my mum and dad adopted her from a local rescue centre. I wasn't too impressed at first as I was used to being the only dog – and between you and me Kelsey can be very annoying! I'm sure all big brothers must find this but honestly, she has too much energy at times, and she pesters me to play when I would rather take a nap. She is also quite noisy, and even my mum tells her to be quiet when she starts barking at the crack of dawn for her breakfast.

My mum tells me we must be kind to Kelsey though and try and forgive her funny ways, as she had such a terrible start in life. Some other humans were very unkind to Kelsey before she came to us, and for months she was too scared to do anything other than sit quietly in her bed in the corner of our kitchen. She has gradually changed though and is now much more confident - but only with the people and in the places she knows. Kelsey loves to play, and chase a tennis ball, and explore, and in her own way she is a happy little girl. But she can't completely get over her difficult start, and she will probably never be confident enough to walk up to someone she doesn't know for a fuss, or to lie quietly if there is an unexpected noise. This is fine for us, as we all love her anyway and we know to adapt to her habits. The reason I'm telling you all of this though is that Kelsey will probably never be calm and confident enough to be a therapy dog.

 bryn and kelsey

Furry and friendly therapy dogs

If you do have a furry friend with the right temperament though, please think about giving volunteering a go. It's great! You humans like to say that size doesn't matter, and that goes for therapy dogs too. My vet was telling me the other day that she has recently assessed a great dane to be a therapy dog. My first thought was wow – that’s a huge volunteer! But then the vet explained that this dog will be going to visit patients in hospital, and her head will be at just the right height to reach over the edge of a bed for an ear rub. So you see, we can all have a role to play.

Sharing memories

We were telling Rhiannon about Kelsey when we visited last week, and apparently it's not just us dogs who have annoying little brothers and sisters. Rhiannon has two younger brothers, and she said that when they were young they could be very irritating. They all used to play tricks on each other, and their mum would tell them off. But they still loved each other of course and had some fun too. Rhiannon told us that one day when they were young she and one of her brothers were bouncing on their mum and dad's bed. They were having great fun playing – until some of the bed springs broke! They didn't know what to do and so they took the broken springs outside and hid them under a bush. Their mum and dad never mentioned it and so to this day they don't know whether anyone realised what they had done. We were saying that as Rhiannon's brother still lives on the same farm maybe he should go and look in the bushes and see if the springs are still there, nearly 65 years later!

We are off to see Rhiannon again this weekend as we always do, and Kelsey will come with us, but wait in the car. Luckily she loves the car and naps quite peacefully for an hour or so. Then after our visit my mum will take us both for a really long walk, what a lovely day for us all.

Love from Bryn xx

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Pat Linum with Margaret Gumble
Contains adult material

"Registered with the IP Rights Office Copyright Registration Service
Ref: 7533154939"

Table of Contents

Page 3 Foreword
Page 5 Chapter one (Pat’s Journey Begins. His early60’s)
Page 9 Chapter Two (Pat aged65)
Page 12 Chapter Three (Aged 66)
Page 15 Chapter Four (6 months later)
Page 18 Chapter Five (Pat aged 68)
Page 23 Chapter Six (Pat aged 70)
Page 26 Chapter Seven (Pat, The End)
Page 29 Chapter Eight (Carol’s Journey)
Page 39 Chapter nine (The Agony Worsens)
Page43 Chapter Ten (Mandy’s Experience)
Page 52 Chapter eleven (Carol Needs Help)
Page 65Chapter twelve (Carol, the end)
Page 66Epilogue (Three months later)
Page 67 Margaret Gumble reflects on our final draft.
Page 68 Contributions received from the Writer’s Forum.

Make no mistake; Dementia is the incarnation of evil. I am anxious to get this project out before its merciless grip consumes me and separates me from myself.
The insight of Ernest Hemingway is cruelly demonstrated by his declaration:” That two people in love can never have a happy ending.” The following account will validate that statement.
Hemingway also expressed his own intimate feelings in that, he noted:” being a writer is easy. You just sit down at your typewriter and bleed”. I am going to bleed a lot. This account needs to be written. It is not positive about the effects of Dementia but positively realistic.
The story is based on true life experiences and attempts to explore the feelings and emotions of a person going through the dementia process. Clearly it is not possible to question such a victim who is passed a certain point, but by closely watching them and using bucket loads of empathy a little insight is possible. These people are what they are. They do not have axes to grind or pretentions to live up to. It is, I believe, a question of: ‘What you see is what you get.’
In respectfully recounting the other side of the equation which in this case is the victim’s wife I am grateful to e-writing friends from three continents who have encouraged me to complete this work and have contributed their own sad experiences which I have alluded to in the story. They will recognise their contributions which I humbly hope helps bring reality to this work. In the pages that follow you will read events firstly through the eyes of the victim Pat and then from his carer and wife Carol.
It may well be a descent you will be, or, are already on. All types of dementias are progressive. This means that the structure and chemistry of the brain becomes increasingly damaged over time. The person's ability to remember, to understand, to communicate and to reason is in decline. The person’s personality goes through 180 degrees. They suffer pain and die. Happy endings are no part of the dementia journey.
It could be likened to a, minute single cell, self reproducing maggot that finds its way into the human brain, feeds indiscriminately on various brain cells of its choice and wildly multiplies with catastrophic results and drags that person ultimately to death. Along the way it produces incalculable pain and suffering to the victims and their families and friends. How soon before the human population is, maybe, wiped out by it?
Who knows?

This work was offered by me to dementia charities in the UK and the USA. Both refused it as they prefer to highlight the positives. THERE ARE NO POSITIVES as Margaret and I know only too well

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