A Cautionary Tale

My husband and I had just returned from a four day business trip. Christmas was only one week away and we were far behind in our preparations. Today we would put things back on track. The recent snowfall had carpeted our world with white which gleamed in the bright sunshine. It was a Christmas Card type of morning. A perfect morning for a Christmas Tree hunt. It was a tradition we had started a few years earlier; one eagerly anticipated by us all, including Paco our two year old Lab cross. The plans were made. We would drive up north to our favorite Christmas Tree farm and trek through the snow in search of the perfect pine or the sprucest spruce. My son and I would gleefully run ahead circling trees and shouting out “Look at this one”. “No, that’s a Charlie Brown tree” would be shouted back. My husband would grumble, secretly smiling at our antics. Finally a brief conference would be held to make the final decision. Selecting the ideal tree was a passionate and sometimes heated exercise in consensus building. However, once the vote was unanimous, my husband would cut down the chosen tree and all three of us would cheerfully take turns dragging it back to the check out area. No Christmas Tree hunt would be complete without the mandatory hot chocolate by the bonfire, sharing the warmth of the fire and stories of Christmas Trees past. With warmed hands and hearts we would climb into the truck for the long drive home.

It was with these fond thoughts, as well as my long Christmas checklist, in my mind that I was rushing around gathering the outdoor gear needed for our wilderness adventure. When I absent-mindedly opened the door to let Paco out into the yard, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, buried under my Christmas ‘to do’ list, was the vaguest thought, “Paco is walking funny.” I looked out the patio doors to see if he was okay. “He must of hurt himself. He’s definitely walking funny,” I mused, still not feeling at all alarmed. When I opened the door and called Paco in, it finally hit me, like running face first into a brick wall. Something was definitely wrong. I watched horrified as Paco struggled to maintain control of his back legs. I screamed for my husband hoping he would be able to explain what was happening. Everything would be okay once we figured out what it was. It was at that point Paco gave up the struggle to stand. He collapsed into a shaking heap.

In a panic my hands shook. It took three attempts to dial the number for the emergency animal clinic. I frantically struggled to find words to explain Paco’s behavior. “Bring him into the clinic immediately” they urged. Quickly we agreed I would drive, my husband would try to comfort Paco, my son would stay at home. I grabbed my coat heading out the door. Our truck lay under a thick coat of ice and snow. I attacked the windshield as my husband came out of the house carrying Paco in his arms, followed by my shell-shocked son. As my husband wrestled to get himself and Paco into the backseat, I rushed back into the house for my purse. I turned at the sound of our front door opening behind me. Confused at the sight of my husband I struggled to understand the words “He’s gone”. “No” I screeched, falling to my knees. “Yes” he quietly insisted. My son had turned to stone.

“No” I kept repeating. This could not be true. I was in a fog of denial. I was vaguely aware of my husband leaving once more and rushing back into the house. “Hurry. Paco’s okay. He’s conscious.” came in staccato bursts. Paco’s not dead was all I really heard. It was more urgent than ever to get him the clinic. My husband climbed into the back of the truck cradling Paco. Hysterically I chipped away more ice and snow, just enough to see out of the driver’s side window. I cursed what earlier that day I had thought so beautiful. I don’t remember the drive. Thankfully it was a short one on the sparsely populated Sunday morning roads.

The Vet quickly determined that our young Lab had had a Grand Mal Seizure. He had several more as the doctor continued to examine him. Through the muddle of disbelief I head the doctor say the seizures could kill him. I moved like walking through deep water. Familiar words were now hard to understand. They had given Paco some medication, put him on an IV and would keep him overnight. We shuffled silently out to return home to break the news to our son. It would be a long agonizing night. Each time we called the clinic, we were told that Paco was weak but appeared to be resting peacefully. For now there were no more seizures.

The next morning we anxiously waited at the doors for the clinic to open. My heart swelled with joy when Paco was led out into the waiting area. After rushing to us and pushing into our legs, he raised his front leg, which still was wrapped in bandages. He proudly displayed the battle wound earned during the war he had just fought and won. That day Paco would show his wound to everyone that crossed his path, gaining much-needed sympathy and many extra treats.

The next day we happily visited a parking lot and picked out a Christmas Tree. Although this was a second choice, our hearts were soaring. The Charlie Brownish tree stood proudly in our living room and was admired by all. With great joy, we watched Paco steal the boxes left empty as ornaments were carefully placed on the tree. Halfheartedly we admonished him. We were all just thankful he was still part of our family.

Until that shocking day I was completely unaware that dogs could have Epilepsy. Paco stayed on anticonvulsant medication for the rest of his life and thankfully never had another seizure. This is a cautionary tale. Please watch your dogs, especially younger dogs for any indications of a seizure. A Grand Mal Seizure is horrifying to witness. It is treatable. Both you and your dog can survive it.

Here is link for more information on Epilepsy in dogs and what you will see if your dog is having a seizure.

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