Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A walk remembered

Chloe, as you know, is an enthusiastic 'working cat', paying weekly visits to our local nursing home and making friends with both the patients and their companions!
But something unexpected and moving happened the other week . . .  if you've a moment to spare, I'd love to share it with you.

One of the people Chloe visits is Annie, an elderly lady of gentle disposition.  Annie's main problem is that of early dementia, her memory, whilst relatively good in relation to the past, is often hesitant and spasmodic in the present.

She loves cats, always greets Chloe with great delight, but rarely remembers that she has seen her before.
When visiting her the other week we found her room full of cards and balloons, but Annie was puzzled as to the reason . . . she'd completely forgotten it was her birthday.

Chloe excels herself with the patients, but, for a lively and inquisitive cat, a nursing home can prove tantalising.  So much possible interest and excitement lies just out of reach.

Each room has a window, each window offers a different view of the world outside.  There are windows opening onto window-boxes that Chloe would love to investigate, windows overlooking gardens that she'd love to explore. But it's Annie's window that affords the greatest temptation . . . being on the ground floor it opens out onto the garden and, in the warm summer weather, Annie frequently has her window ajar.

It was a beautiful morning when we visited the nursing home two weeks ago.  The garden, visible through Annie's open window, was bathed in sunlight.
"Why don't you take Chloe for a walk outside?"I suggested.
Annie's face lit up, "May I?  Would she let me?"
"She'd be thrilled!" I assured her.
Pushing the window wide open, I handed Annie the lead and an eager, if rather incredulous, Chloe led the three of us out onto the garden path.

I don't know which of them was the more excited . . . Annie, with the lead grasped firmly in her hand, or Chloe, for whom this garden, a wonderland that she had gazed at so wistfully through the window, was now a reality.

They took their time . . . Chloe wanted to get her bearings, sniff the plants, examine the inviting wooden seats.  Annie wanted to savour this rare and unexpected pleasure of taking a cat for a walk.  It was only with difficulty that I managed to guide the eager explorers back down the pathway, and encourage them to return, albeit reluctantly, through the open window that led back to Annie's room.

It seemed a little sad that Annie wouldn't remember this experience.  It had given her so much pleasure.  Nonetheless, I consoled myself with the thought that, were it another sunny day the following week, we'd be able to repeat the exercise.

On our arrival at the nursing home the following Friday, I noticed one of Annie's daughters walking down the passage.  She was clearly on her way to visit her mother, but her face lit up with pleasure on seeing Chloe.
"My mother told me!" she exclaimed excitedly, "Se told me all about taking your cat for a walk in the garden!  It's Chloe, isn't it?"

On reflection, I don't know which of us was the more delighted, Annie's daughter or me.  Not only had Annie remembered the epic walk, she had also, to our mutual surprise, remembered Chloe's name.

Off-duty 'working cats' deserve to take it easy.
For Chloe, what better place to relax than a branch of her favourite tree . . . but not an idea, perhaps, to share with Annie!