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.