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Bee Bee and Yia Yia

I wrote this short story after my husband, our dog and I visited family in Charlotte one year. I was so moved by the friendship between my husband's grandmother, Yia Yia, and our labradoodle puppy, Bee Bee, that I came home and scribbled this story – written like a children's book – in a spiral bound notebook I found in the junk drawer.

Bee Bee was the sweetest, cutest, most wonderful puppy in the whole entire world. (Her humans thought so, anyway.) She had lots of soft, curly fur: chocolate brown with cream-colored spots. Her big gold eyes were bright, and her tail was white at the tip — like it had been dipped in a vanilla milkshake.

Bee Bee was perfect in the eyes of her humans – even though she was known to get into a bit of mischief. (Puppies and mischief go together like peanut butter and jelly. Or peanut butter and banana. Ok, peanut butter and anything.)

Once, Bee Bee jumped up on the counter and ate a whole plate of cookies when her humans weren’t looking. Another day, she faked a limp so she wouldn’t have to go to doggie daycare and got to stay home with her humans instead. And there was that time it looked like a mummy had come to visit — Bee Bee had unraveled rolls and rolls of toilet paper all through the house!

So maybe she wasn’t exactly perfect, but she sure was lovable. (And, hey — nobody's perfect! What would be the fun in that?!)

One day, Bee Bee’s parents loaded her into the car; it was time to drive to the annual family holiday party. Bee Bee was so excited– she loved seeing the other humans! They gave her great big hugs and always spoiled her with lots of treats and toys.

Out of all the family members, Bee Bee was most excited to see Yia Yia.

Yia Yia was the grandma in the family, and she was one of Bee Bee’s favorite people ever. Yia Yia wasn’t the most playful or the fastest, but she sure did give Bee Bee good belly rubs. She had a peaceful energy that made even the most rambunctious pup feel calm and cozy.

The minute the family arrived, Bee Bee hurried off to find Yia Yia. Bee Bee found her sitting at the kitchen table working on a puzzle. Bee Bee licked her hand to get her attention.

“Oh my, what a cute doggie!” Yia Yia said. Bee Bee wagged her tail and gave Yia Yia some sloppy kisses. She’d missed her favorite grandma! Yia Yia’s hair was white and poofy, her hands wrinkly and soft. She was tiny, but her smile was big.

Bee Bee heard Yia Yia asking her humans some questions: “What’s her name?” “Is she a puppy?” “Is she a good girl?”

Bee Bee was confused. Doesn’t Yia Yia already know all of this!? She knows my name! Of course I'm a puppy! And I am a good, good girl! Why is she asking?

Bee Bee listened as her humans patiently answered all of Yia Yia’s questions. Yia Yia smiled and patted Bee Bee’s head. A few minutes passed, then Yia Yia asked again: “What’s her name?” “Is she a puppy?” “Is she a good girl?”

Okay, now I’m really confused. Is Yia Yia forgetting what my humans literally JUST told her!? Bee Bee felt frustrated, but again her humans were sweetly answering Yia Yia. Then it happened again.

Bee Bee wanted to bark:

What’s wrong with you, Yia Yia!? Aren’t you listening!? And why are my humans smiling and acting like this isn’t totally bananas!?

All morning, afternoon, and evening, Bee Bee heard Yia Yia ask the same questions over and over. Again and again, Bee Bee’s parents would answer like everything was normal.

And each time, Yia Yia’s face would light up, like she was learning about Bee Bee for the very first time. She’d look at Bee Bee with new wonder and say “Now that’s a very good girl!” (And Bee Bee didn’t mind that part one bit!)

After a while, Bee Bee wandered into the kitchen to see if anyone had dropped food on the floor. All Yia Yia’s questions had made her hungry! While she was under the table munching on cake crumbs, she heard the humans talking about Yia Yia; they kept using a word Bee Bee didn’t know: dementia.

Bee Bee may have been a silly and energetic pup, but she knew how to quiet down so she could listen in on the humans’ conversation. Her ears perked up as she heard what this new word “dementia” meant for Yia Yia: challenges and changes including memory loss.

From under the table, Bee Bee learned even more about dementia. She heard it affects how the brain works; it can make a person forget all sorts of things, about other people, puppies, and even their own self.

Oh, so that’s what’s going on!

Yia Yia couldn’t remember certain details anymore. But she still needed love. She still liked the feeling of laying on the couch with Bee Bee, feeling her curls on her cheek. Bee Bee went back to the couch and snuggled up close to Yia Yia; around YiaYia she didn’t feel mischievous or anxious — she enjoyed just being with her. That time spent together was the most fun of all.

Yia Yia’s memory wasn't the same as it used to be, but her cuddles were just as special as always. Oooh yeah, scratch me right there Yia Yia! Ooh, that feels good.

Yia Yia may not have remembered Bee Bee’s name or if she was still a puppy. (She didn’t remember a lot of things – like her own birthday, or even what she ate for breakfast.) Hey now that I'm thinking of it, what did I have for breakfast? Oh yeah, dog food! Like I do every single day!

But she still loved Bee Bee, and Bee Bee loved her. Nothing else really mattered, because their friendship — and the warmth they both felt in that present moment — was more powerful than anything else.

Bee Bee started to understand something: Even when memory fades; love lasts forever. And sometimes just being together is enough.

More than enough.

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