2-minute dog trainer — starting over :-(

I’m bereft. My sweet boy Tempest lost his battle with epilepsy yesterday.

I know more about canine epilepsy than I ever wanted to. Seems there are several levels of severity with epilepsy. These include but are not limited to:

–  irregularly spaced (weeks to months) single seizures.

– regularly spaced (weeks to months) single seizures.

– irregularly spaced cluster seizures (clusters are multiple events w/in 24 hrs).

– regularly spaced cluster seizures

– status epilepticus (seizures occurring back-to-back over a period of 30+ minutes, with no recovery between) which are life-threatening and can result in brain damage due to prolonged oxygen deprivation.

I’ve learned that no one really knows why epilepsy occurs, there are no cures, there are some paths to management which occasionally work all the time with some dogs, some of the time with some dogs, and not at all with some dogs.

My poor, sweet, buddy-boy Tempest had two single seizures at age 15 months and 16 months. Then, at age 21 months, he had his first status epilepticus.

Ten seizures in a 55-minute period left him unconscious as we arrived at the emergency vet’s office. I was certain he had died as he went silent for the last 10 minutes of the drive.

The emergency vet sent him into an unconscious state. Every time he started coming out of unconsciousness he’d begin thrashing and she’d give him more drugs.

The next day was a hellish experience. I rushed my moaning boy to my vets office first thing in the morning and Tempest struggled to regain consciousness. One young lady in my vet’s office spent several hours holding him on her lap. We were hoping to catch him before he began to seize again, and allow him to come out of anesthesia.

My gut told me he was finished. My vet begged me to give medicine a chance.

Tempest recovered from that hellish experience but was never the same. I believe he had some brain damage, he had some loss of vision that never returned, and he just wasn’t “himself.” A mom knows.

Over the next 2 months we tried to establish a “new normal,” but every 2 weeks we had a seizure event. We’d just recover from one and have another.

Stressors, including being crated in the car, house, or training building, tended to trigger seizures. We got valium tablets and Rescue Remedy. Tempest’s seizures cause me to be hyper-vigilant and have flashbacks. I watched him constantly. It was like living with a ticking bomb.

I tried to comfort myself with the idea that 95% of his seizures occur between 5pm and 8pm. I was especially watchful and on-edge during those hours.

Every event found me struggling with my gut, which told me we were losing the battle, and my vet / my epil-k9 list / my friends who encouraged me to keep trying.

Yesterday morning Tempest and I awoke to my cell-phone alarm telling me it was “pill time!”  Two phenobarbitol pills, and a little food, and I went to work answering e-mails and doing Saturday morning routines.

At 8am I heard him scrambling a little under my desk.  He crashed to the floor in a seizure, but I calmly held him and protected him, confident we’d have just one seizure.

He started to recover and I tried to fix him a snack when crash, he went into a second, smaller, seizure. Oh my God, I thought, he’s going into another status situation.

It wasn’t lost on me that morning seizures were not common for us. All this is running through my mind as crash, he went into seizure three while I tried to get some rectal valium into him. Bud held him and comforted him while I worked with the syringe.

We gave an extra phenobarbitol and a valium tablet, and he eventually calmed down.

I got him some bananas with maple syrup on them, but he couldn’t eat. I tried 15 minutes later and he ate his treat. Half an hour later he took some water. Half an hour later he had some dog food.

My gut told me we’d reached the end of our journey with epilepsy. The morning seizures, the second status event, his phenobarbitol blood level numbers, all told me we were fighting a losing battle.

So I held my sweet boy, the dog of my dreams, my dog of a life-time, on the floor in the vet’s exam room. Sweet-T slipped gently into the deep sleep while I held him in my arms. Tempest’s last vision was my face, and his last puffy exhalations were felt on my lips.

My agility dreams were to step to the start line with a fearless partner. I didn’t care about Qs and placements. I just wanted a partner who was enjoying himself. Tempest was all that and more.

Canine epilepsy changed and destroyed my sweet-T. It weakened him and ruined his quality of life.

Canine epilepsy changed me and destroyed my future. I could no longer consider a future beyond getting Tempest through another day.

Today I suffer through the additional guilt from “relief from stress.” This same emotion must be felt by everyone who loses an ill loved-one. Suddenly you have time on your hands, time that you would be struggling with illness and concern.

You allow yourself an instant of relief, your guilt comes crashing in on you.

Today I also struggle to remember the lovely, sweet Tempest. When I close my eyes and think of him his last seizure is all I see, seared into my brain.

So I’m watching videos, looking and printing puppy pictures, and trying to replace the horrible mental pictures with joyous pictures.

My 2-minute dog training blog is the story of Tempest’s life. He came to me at 8 weeks and was training for 13 months using only 2-minute training protocols.

He was a puppy full of love for everyone. He loved dogs and cats alike. He would play with anyone, anytime. He was the most amazing boy. I looked forward to a future of playing with Tempest, but it was not to be.

Now, life must go on. The best I can do to prove my love for Tempest is to transfer that love, those hopes and dreams, to another agility partner.

There are millions of dogs looking for homes and my next agility dog may be from border collie rescue.

I’m not looking for another Tempest, some sort of replacement dog. That’s not possible.

But Tempest’s love for me, and his love of the game, exists in another canine form, and I’m going to seek it out.

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12 Responses to “2-minute dog trainer — starting over :-(”

  1. Marsha Nix Says:

    Oh Marsha I am sorry for your loss. I remember when I met Tempest at camp and I new he was such wonderful dog. I am grieving with you and I know it will take some time for you to recover. Ther will never be another Tempest but you will have another agility partner when the time is right. That dog will find you.
    Take care of yourself for now-

  2. Linda Stutz Says:

    Oh Marsha, I am so sorry to hear this. My first Sheltie, Ladd, went into status elepticus after about a year on medication for intermittent seizures. He was about 12 (a rescue) and I will never forget the agony of watching a seizure………..
    You will never “get over” this experience, but with the love and support of friends and family, I am sure that you will find joy and delight in playing and living with another canine partner. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  3. Teresa Says:

    I am so sorry you lost, Tempest. You fought a good fight. Peace to you all now.

  4. Cindy Wilmoth Says:

    Oh, Marsha, I’m so sorry! My thoughts are with you.

    We call that person who has lost his father, an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost his wife. But that man who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent and holds its peace in impotence. ~ Joseph Roux

  5. Courtney Keys Says:

    Marsha, I’m in tears reading this. So sorry. Run free and fast, Tempest.

  6. Linda Says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful journey with Tempest–the joyous times and the sad ones.

  7. katie Says:

    Beautiful tribute to a great dog. Such a hard, hard loss.

  8. Michelle Says:

    So sorry Marsha; I was hoping for a better result for Tempest. I know each seizure dog is different. And I know the experience of cluster seizures, the feeling of helplesness, hope, dispair, frustration and love. It is a draining journey, an emotional roller coaster. You will likely have flashback memories of him and wonder what could have been. Cherish the great times and know that at least his pain and confusion is over. I am so sorry you had to experience this. It is just a hard road. Remember the great times and the wonderful training lessons he gave you. Joy always seem to shorter than sadness, but remember those joyful times and smile. It helps your heart heal.

  9. Shannon Bednowicz Says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. We lost our boy last October, he also struggled with epilepsy, though not as severe as Tempest. The guilt will lessen, and you’ll remember the love. We do now. Love and prayers and warmest thoughts during this time.

  10. Kim Says:

    I am so very sad to hear of your loss. Losing your friend and your partner, young or old, is so painful. Allow yourself to feel however you feel for however long you need to feel it. You will remember his joy, you will remember his love, you will remember how he made you smile. Your heart will heal, but your heart will never forget him.

  11. Andrea Says:

    “Today I suffer through the additional guilt from “relief from stress.” This same emotion must be felt by everyone who loses an ill loved-one. Suddenly you have time on your hands, time that you would be struggling with illness and concern.”

    (((hugs)))) been there too many times for too many reasons not to tear up as I read that … I have followed the two minute trainer since your first post – with such joy and then such sadness …
    and now tragedy

    my thoughts are with you as you struggle to find the happy memories and peace

  12. Lydia Donnelly Says:

    Tears are streaming as I read your post. We have never had the honor of meeting Tempest, but the love and connection you had with him shines through your words. Losing a fur person is so painful, we hope your pictures, memories and thoughts of him bring you comfort through these difficult days. Our deepest sympathy to you and your family on the passing of Tempest.

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