• Jake Kielmeyer

Cherub The Wonder-Lab: How one Dog Brought Joy to a Family Affected by Alzheimer's

Updated: Mar 5

My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the fall of 2003. There were some small flags in the years leading to his diagnosis, but when he went to our old house for my 6th birthday party, we knew something was wrong. His diagnosis was hard on everyone, especially my grandmother who became his primary caregiver.

At first, visits to his house weren’t different. Every time we got out of the car; we’d still get greeted by a big, slobbery sheepdog named Bear. My grandma would be waiting on the porch and my grandpa would be in his favorite chair. We’d wake up in the morning to cinnamon rolls for breakfast and my sister, and I would play with our cousins in our grandparents’ big back yard. Grandpa mostly watched TV and played with Bear.

My family always had a special relationship with dogs. My grandpa grew up with dogs. His kids had dogs. And he had 3 sheepdogs in his life, all named Bear. A few years after his diagnosis, Bear passed away. Sometimes, grandpa would forget that she had died and would wander around the house looking for her. After Bear passed, things felt different. We still had cinnamon rolls in the morning and played in the yard, but the house didn’t feel like grandma and grandpa’s anymore without Bear. It felt empty and made visiting a little bit harder.

Being a dog family, we knew the only way to make it better was to get a new dog. This dog had to be old and gentle, so she wouldn’t knock anyone over. She had to be great with kids, and most importantly, she needed to be loving to bring a little joy back into the house. My dad scoured kennels and the internet in search of this perfect dog, and at a small kennel in Indiana, he found her. Her name was Cherub.

She was a beautiful English lab and had been a show dog and mother in her younger years. Cherub had silver hair peppered all over her silky black coat and was the sweetest dog I had ever met. It wasn’t long until our whole family had fallen in love with her and the house felt like grandma and grandpa’s again.

My grandpa loved to pet Cherub and she would lay down next to his chair and always be by his side for a quick head scratch. Every time he pet her, he would smile a little bit and she would gently wag her tail. Cherub had a positive affect not only on my grandpa but on the entire family. She soon became one of the best things about going to grandma and grandpa’s house. Despite being old, she was great at fetch and would play in the backyard with me whenever I went exploring. Best yet, cherub kept my grandma company and made the stress of caregiving a little easier to live with. Cherub was her favorite dog.

My grandfather passed away in 2009. Cherub lived for a few years longer, keeping my grandma company and playing with the grandkids in the yard, her tail almost constantly wagging.

Sadly, all dogs go too soon, and Cherub passed away at 15. When she died, it felt like the last part of my grandpa had gone with her.

I'll never forget how happy she made my grandfather. How sweet she was to my grandma and the memories we all made with her. I wish every family that’s affected by Alzheimer’s had a dog like Cherub to make the bad times better and the good times warmer. Maybe then, Alzheimer's wouldn't be so hard.

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