I’ve written numerous posts about my three-legged dog, Sadie and how we recently lost her. An episode of Real Men Feel was dedicated to the bond between men and dogs. Some people replace pets quickly, not wanting to be in feelings of grief and loss a moment longer than necessary. I like to give plenty of time to feel everything that is there. To me, giving the loss some time and space to breath is my final way to honor the dog I lost.
After dealing with Sadie’s unexplained seizures for nine months and then having to say goodbye, I thought it might be a year or more before I had any interest in having another dog.
My wife’s been ready to get a dog for a few weeks, maybe longer. I wasn’t. After our ten-month Universal Kabbalah program ended this past weekend, one of the many clearings I experienced was around a next dog.
I visited the Sterling Shelter site on Monday. That is where Sadie and our black and tan coon hound, Homer, before her as well as our current cat, Marge all came from. On the site I scrolled thru 34 dogs. I got to this photo of Scout and cried. I thought that meant I wasn’t ready. I visited again the next day, cried at this picture again, but thought maybe the emotion meant yes.
We made plans to visit the shelter and meet, Scout.
The morning we were to see her, I woke up at 6:15 am because I heard a dog bark. One single bark. I don’t know if it was a dream or what. There was no dog in the house or yard. Cue the Twilight Zone music.
We visited the shelter and learned that Scout is 5 months old and up here from Texas. An elderly couple had her for a month and returned her – I swear that is the emotion I felt looking at her. The pain and sorrow of abandonment.
The couple thought she was too high-energy for them. Luckily, years of three-legged soccer with Sadie have us properly trained for high-energy critters. We even have a bonus 4th leg this time around.
https://i0.wp.com/theandygrant.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Scout.jpg?fit=600%2C315&ssl=1315600Andy Granthttp://theandygrant.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Andy-Grant-Logo.pngAndy Grant2018-10-21 15:44:102019-01-02 15:48:15Answering a Bark in the Night
Since last June my three-legged rescue dog, Sadie, has been having cluster seizures. They are grand-mal full body seizures that last about a minute but take longer for her to recover from. At first, she is so disorientated she seems blind. She’ll try to stand up only to fall back down. She walks straight into the corner of a room and tries to keep walking. She’ll be confused and shaky for a few minutes. Over the past few months, that period of confusion has gotten longer. Lately, it might be twenty minutes or even a full day for her to seem normal after a cluster of seizures (three or more).
I previously wrote about Sadie and the amazing example of resilience she is, I’ll do my best not to repeat myself here.
The seizures can be rapid fire, as many as 4 in an hour and they can be spread out over the course of a night. This week she had 8 in 12 hours. She runs the risk of slamming her head against the floor or falling down stairs. Her jaw slams shut dozens of times in each seizure, and it is a dangerous procedure to hold her safely and not get bitten.
There has been no pattern. The seizures have shown up at some point every 3 – 6 weeks since they started. She’s been to multiple vets, neurologists, and energy workers. Sadie’s had chiropractic, acupuncture, and all sorts of healings. She’s been on numerous pharmaceuticals, Chinese herbs, and more variants of cannabis oils and pastes than Cheech and Chong could imagine. Nothing has gotten the seizures under control.
In between these horrible nights and days, she is awesome. But never knowing when the seizures will come and dealing with her heavy medication list means our life centers around her. People need to be trained to watch her even for just a few hours. Once we came home and based on the disarray in the house, we could tell she’d had a seizure. We found her cowering in the closet. We did our best to make sure that never happened again, and to the best of our knowledge, it never did.
We’ve been prepared to put her down multiple times but then she’s been fine, and we relented. But I knew if the seizures weren’t going to be controlled, we couldn’t go on this way. Being afraid to leave the house, not taking trips, needing people to say at our house even if we both went away for a day. And the toll it takes on Sadie has grown. It can now be days before she seems back to normal after a rough night of six seizures or more.
Yesterday morning, after a night of seizures, beginning at 1:30 am that continued till 2:30 pm my wife came to me sobbing. She’d hit the wall and couldn’t do this any longer. The night before as I held Sadie during three different seizures in an hour, I felt we’d done all we can do, and it was time to put her down.
So life will get a little easier and much harder at the same time. We won’t have our bounding Tigger of resilience. When I first picked Sadie up at the dog shelter, I felt that we wouldn’t have her that long. Six was the number that kept coming to me. But we’ve lost her just shy of having her for five years, and almost ten months since her unexplained seizures started, a night we thought she wasn’t going to live through. She made it through more than sixty seizures, but enough is enough.
My wife and I came to react so calmly to the seizures. I’d wrap Sadie in a waterproof blanket and hold her down while Lori ran for the acute seizure meds that were meant to stop them. The seizure was often the easy part; after one while, blinded she would fight with all her strength to get up and away, but when she did, she slammed into doors and walls. It was heartbreaking. Usually there was a period of joy when she recognized us again, often as if seeing us for the first time in weeks. But on her final day, that joyful period didn’t happen. The worse thing about it was that there was nothing we could do. We sought out and followed the advice of so many experts. Yet the seizures continued.
Sadie was teaching me resilience all along the way. It wasn’t only regarding her living life fearlessly with three legs instead of four. She gifted me the lesson of accepting what you don’t know and can’t control. I kept pleading and searching to know what caused this and what we could do. On her final night, in between seizures, I prayed. I asked for Sadie to be healed and for the seizures to be done for good. It wasn’t the way I desired, but they are now done for good.
I know we gave her a fantastic life while she was with us and she added such a roller coaster of emotions to our lives – far more, for good and bad, than I ever thought a dog could offer. There will be no more homemade dog food, no more mixing of medicines and supplements into her food, no more trying to find what treats she’ll take her twice daily medications with, no more pee stained rugs and furniture.
But, who will eat the tree branches that fall in the yard? Who will chase away all the wild turkeys? Who will play three-legged dog soccer with me? Who will pee and drool all over me in their seizures? Ok, I won’t miss that last one, at some point.
Now I will sob for a few hard days. I’ll wander around the house looking for her. I’ll notice the drool stains on the walls and windows from her last seizures. Eventually, I’ll realize life has gotten a little easier; all be it emptier.
See Sadie’s love of sticks and snow.
https://i0.wp.com/theandygrant.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/SadieSteps.png?fit=525%2C370&ssl=1370525Andy Granthttp://theandygrant.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Andy-Grant-Logo.pngAndy Grant2018-04-06 22:27:382019-01-02 22:31:31A Dog Guarantees One of the Best Days of Your Life and One of the Worst
Sadie the three-legged wonder dog, and resilience.
In January of 2013 my beloved rescue hound dog, Homer was killed by a car in front of our house. It was the first time in nine years he had left his yard which had an invisible dog fence. My wife and I were devastated. I still get choked up remembering seeing him lying still on the road and picking him up to carry him home. Homer went on to become a best-selling author and I wanted to give him the proper amount of time and mourning before getting another dog.
Sadie at 6 months old in her new home.
In June of that year, the animal shelter my wife often volunteered at (and where Homer came from) posted a video and photos of Sadie – a treeing walker coonhound/mutt missing her right rear leg. Sadie had been there a couple of weeks and nobody had taken her home. She was full of such exuberance. I don’t think she ever noticed or thought about her missing leg, which she lost at a few weeks old and then spent months in the hospital as they attempted to save it. The bills became too much for her owners in West Virginia and she ended up in an animal shelter and eventually was rescued and sent to a no-kill shelter in Massachusetts.
As soon as I saw that video on Facebook, I knew that beautiful, bounding beast of resilience was the dog for me. She was the model of perseverance I needed in my life. I called my wife to ask what thought of getting a dog with three legs. As soon as she heard the “d” of dog, she said, “yes!” She called the shelter and as a volunteer, they told her to get here today and we’ll hold her. We arrived as a family was looking at Sadie and we both said, “she’s taken!” at the same time.
Sadie has been one of the most fun-loving pets I’ve ever had. But, in June of 2017, she began having grand mal seizures, actually clusters of them. I had never heard of this in dogs, but I guess it is rather common. Despite multiple hospitalizations, vets, neurologists, chiropractic, acupuncture and more, the seizures haven’t stopped for good.
A Sadie Collage. Two in upper left was as a puppy in the shelter.
99% of the time Sadie is happy and healthy. A joy to have in my life. 1% of the time, happening on a monthly basis since June – it is terrifying, distressing, and brings feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Feelings I’m all too familiar with. I’ve been prepared to have her put down on multiple occasions. Recently it hit me that again she is a model and reflecting what I need to see. My own periods of depression and suicidal ideation are very much like her seizures. My down times are a small percentage of my life, but when I’m in them my life feels like 100% shit show.
At times this past summer the fact that my dog was suddenly having seizures with no known cause and despite intense efforts, specialists, energy work, meds, and supplements they haven’t been cured, was just another reason to be depressed and miserable. At other times it seemed like a blessing. It was as if Sadie was helping me by making me focus on her. When she starts having a seizure, nothing I’m thinking about or feeling matters. Whatever thoughts I’d been thinking – good, bad, or indifferent – vanish in a split second as I’m desperate to help her.
I’m writing this following a long night of five seizures for Sadie and one hour of sleep for me. The first sign of trouble is that Sadie starts running around anxiously like something is wrong but she isn’t sure what. Then her mouth begins to tremor, opening and closing very fast and all her facial muscles twitch (on rare occasions it stops here).
For the grand mal’s (which all five in the last eight hours were) she falls to the ground and has full body spasms; legs racing as if chasing something in a dream, head slamming in all directions like me at a Metallica concert, she usually pees, sometimes poops, and always drools up a river of thick smelly stuff from deep within her frightened little body. These seizures usually last about a minute. If they don’t stop, she’s in danger of overheating and having permanent brain damage. While they go on, my wife and I hug Sadie, tell her she’s OK, and try to protect her head. Sometimes she slams it against walls or the floor and gets a bloody mouth. Once the physical seizure ends, she enters a state of panic and tries to get up. It is quite a battle to keep her down, but her limbs don’t cooperate and if she gets up she staggers and falls, risking more injury. When home I’m holding her down at this point with everything I’ve got. This can last 5 – 10 minutes. She seems to be blind and perhaps deaf at this stage. Roughly 10 – 15 mins after the seizure ends she suddenly recognizes us. This is my favorite thing about the whole mess. It is like she sees me for the first time. Sadie’s tail goes back and forth at a mile a minute; she wants to smell and lick my face, and I let her even when she’s covered in a wretched slime. She is still very wobbly on her feet. Sadie darts around the house like she is discovering it for the first time. It can take up to 30 minutes before she seems normal.
Usually, her seizures come in clusters. Tonight it was three separate full seizures between 1:20 and 2 am. We give her meds, hemp paste and after a 2nd seizure some Valium (rectally, so it’s a lot of fun). Tonight was the first time that I recall her having additional seizures even after having the Valium. Her final seizure of this month’s cluster (I hope) was at 10:40 am.
Fortunately, or perhaps, unfortunately, we’ve gotten rather used to this scenario. The first few times I would have sworn her seizures lasted at least five minutes and took an hour to recover from. They still are terrifying, but we just hug her, keep her as safe as we can, get peed on and hope each one is the last. Luckily each episode has ended on its own.
September was the worst – she had 10 seizures in 48 hours. One in the back seat of a car while we were racing down a highway. Not fun. We haven’t found a pattern, trigger, or cause yet. So far they happen at some point each month, anywhere from 3 – 5 weeks from the prior cluster. Her vet told us today that Sadie is officially not under control, meaning they acknowledge no treatments have worked yet.
There have been multiple times this summer I thought we were going to lose her or have to put her down. Much like I’ve often thought of having myself put down. But my three-legged sweetheart continues to teach me the fine art of resilience and to fight on. The good times are worth fighting for and vastly outnumber the moments of terror and life peeing on me.
See Sadie Action Practicing For the Tripawd Soccer League.
https://i0.wp.com/theandygrant.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Sadie-IMG_3063-768x5741.jpg?fit=600%2C315&ssl=1315600Andy Granthttp://theandygrant.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Andy-Grant-Logo.pngAndy Grant2017-12-06 20:55:572019-01-02 22:25:55Learning From The Master: My Dog