After seven years of managing to fight off the dreaded seizure monster with dogged determination and proudly overcoming the side effects of medications, that sometimes left him weak and lame, like a furry warrior to the likes I've never seen before, I never thought I'd have to come face-to-face with this evil entity again.
I was wrong.
This past February, Gibson's love Harley, was sleeping peacefully on her bed, when suddenly I saw her head drop off the bed with a thump. My first thought was, wow, she hit the floor hard...then it came...the all-too-familiar shaking, legs galloping to nowhere, the clenched and bared teeth, and the secretion of the all-telling anal glands...for a heart-stopping minute, I was shocked to see this...after all, I was on guard for the seizure monster throughout Gibson's whole life, and always kept a watchful eye on his three younger siblings, but this was Harley...a completely different bloodline...
And she was having a grand mal seizure.
After my initial seconds of shock, I jumped right into automatic action - I quickly tried to put the other Huskies out in the kitchen (and that became a game of "What's going on? We want to see! What's wrong with our momma?") and secured them away from her. I sat down on the floor and kept calling her name, telling her she was okay, petting her jerking sides. I fought back the tears that were stinging my eyes. No time for that, my mind screamed at me. I called out for my daughter and son-in-law who were downstairs. Upon my son-in-law's arrival, he quickly asked what he could do. I had him check on the other dogs and then get me come of the natural vanilla ice cream that was tucked way back in the freezer, always on hand ever since the days of Gibson. I just can't seem to not have a container in there, and now was thankful I did. I also had him get me the cool packs tucked away in the freezer as well. After what again seemed like an eternity (the same as Gibson's first seizure), between the cool packs and my gentle petting and talking, Harley came out of the seizure. She, too, just like Gibson, was experiencing the temporary blindness, which frightened her. I gave her some licks of the ice cream, held her and pet her until she knew she was safe. I cleaned her up and then let her drink a few sips of water and eat a bit of cheese to help bring her sugar levels back. I think only then I began to actually breathe again.
A family stays together.
After it all passed and the other Huskies came back into the living room and things settled down, with the rest of the pack sticking close by her (she's their surrogate mother), especially Wolf. Sleep eluded me that night, and for many after. I kept waking up to check on Harley, using the light on my cell phone so as not to disturb her. She was laying on Gibson's cooler bed, with one of his cooler collars and a cool cloth over her to keep her body temp down. As I watched them all sleeping, I thought about what just happened...and in my head I thanked Gibson for all the years of experience I learned from him about this dreaded disease and how to best care for not only him, but a seizing dog in general. My instincts when she began to seizure were right on cue. I did not hesitate for one second on what to do.
It's a real shame that a dog has to have Canine Epilepsy and that one must have had experience with a seizing dog to be able to have some idea of handling a dog with seizures. Even with all my experience with Gibson and Canine Epilepsy, I had that frozen moment, where staring in shock, I thought, "It can't be happening again..." It brought back so many memories of my dear sweet boy, for whom my #LiveGibStrong & #LiveGibStrongForever K-9 Epilepsy Awareness Campaign is named after. While his journey in life as an Epidog forged a bond between us that will last for eternity, I would never wish it on any dog. And now, a second of my Huskies had one? While it can be genetic, Harley and Gibson are not related. Plus, age is a factor. Gibson was just three when his seizures began. He was within the typical range of when Epilepsy can strike in dogs. Harley on the other hand, is 12. I know that it can be a whole different type of seizure monster when it strikes an elderly dog.
I'm not going to bury the lead here. Thankfully, Harley's tests for anything neurological or possible brain tumor came back negative. What did come back - in just under a year since her last routine bloodwork - was a very low thyroid condition. And yes, hypothyroidism can trigger a seizure in a dog. Harley has since been placed on thyroid medication twice a day, and has had her follow-up bloodwork to show she is at therapeutic levels. My vet and I, so far, believe her sudden drop in thyroid levels was the cause her for her seizure. I already know this is all a day-by-day things, and while nothing is definite, I do feel this was the cause and pray she will never experience another. But, as any Epi-dog parent can tell you, every day post-seizure, you hold your breath and pray another never happens, while always planning just in case it does.
Since her seizure, Harley has also experienced several severe ear infections, causes unknown, although, thyroid disease can trigger ear infections. After a severe reaction to the topical ear medication that caused an emergency vet home visit, Harley has been on and off oral antibiotics now several times...and she at times is very aggravated at her loss of hearing and will paw at her ears in a madding matter, until I wash them out and cool them down for her. As a result of these awful infections, she is now completely deaf. However, that does not stop her from being our alpha queen and adapting to a new way of communicating. She no longer howls with the rest of the FiveSibes, which is very heartbreaking for me. She had the worse singing voice, but I sure miss hearing it. And now, they all do not howl much any more unless I ask them to. They always went to Harley to lead them off...and since she does not hear, she does not howl. She just happily sits and watches everything and everyone around her in her now quiet world. She is my shadow and we now have a very special and trusting bond. She looks to me for hand directions and foot cues, even though I still chat away with her as though she can hear me. Maybe she can read lips? After all the years of seeing us talk commands, maybe she can! I like to think so. Plus, how can I stop talking to her?
They are just amazing.
I think we can all take a few life pointers from dogs! We have a pretty set routine here, and she goes about her day with the others both inside and out like any other day. When she plays, she is a bit louder now that she can't hear, but she still has that rough-and-tumble Husky attitude when it comes to playing! I am working with her to hopefully help her know when the others are howling so she can once again join in the Husky Chorus...but, I know, this may not happen. But we shall try!
Accepting that our beautiful strong alpha queen is now getting older (my vet says they are as old as they feel and she still feels young!) and has had a seizure, is now on medication for hypothyroidism, has constant care of her ears, and is deaf-- is not a roadblock. It is just a slight detour in this beautiful girl's life and as with Gibson, I will always be her champion and help her navigate these new uncertain waters every step of the way in what I hope will be a long, happy, healthy, seizure-free life, with furangel Gibson watching over his true love.
I will continue to help others through my FiveSibes #LiveGibStrong K-9 Epilepsy Awareness campaign, who find themselves taking this journey with their dogs. Here are just a few of my resources worth reading and listening to:
Tune in to these episodes of FiveSibes "The Sibe Vibe" show on Dog Works Radio for some important information on this topic (for a listing of shows, visit HERE).
With Gibson's Lead Vet,
The Divine Dog Project
A portion of sales from my book is donated via my #LiveGibStrong K-9 Epilepsy Campaign to the Epil-K9 Foundation, Home of Canine Epilepsy Resources, through the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine's Clinical Sciences Companion Animal Research Department.
May our beloved seizure dogs forever #LiveGibStrong.