Acclimating to Paris

Enzo went 21 days on the CBD hemp oil used in the study on canine epilepsy at Colorado State University without a having a seizure. I was thrilled. I ignored the hefty $165.00 price tag because there were no side effects to be concerned about; only my wallet took a hit. Enzo remained his sweet, gentle, goofy self. Lulled into a false sense of security, we were back to tracking. Then, on day 22, he seized during our afternoon walk.

That was the beginning of the very worst day. I can’t put into words what went over me as I heard his bell jangle oddly, heard him yelp, and looked up to see him go crashing straight down onto the dirt pathway and begin to convulse. Here?! Outside?! I was shocked, and felt so very vulnerable as I ran to him. I remember feeling so very sad– as I knelt watching–his funny little beard plastered with dirt and leaves from the foamy saliva as he pedaled madly, raking up pine needles and dark Earth. All of his other seizures, (dare I say it?) had been in the safety and comfort of our home. Out here, we were so exposed. So… alone. When he recovered minutes later, he didn’t know who I was; dazed and frightened, he staggered up and away. I fought down panic as I realized he could take off into the woods. I crouched low, murmuring nonsense, and moved slowly in order to get close enough to grab at his harness. Once I had him, we headed for home as fast as we could possibly go, Enzo falling hard twice as I offered support and brushed him off each time.

The recommendation from my vet was to immediately begin phenobarbital. I was crushed. An emergency prescription was called in and Enzo had his first dose of the barbiturate. The dose was on the low side, all things considered, but the side effects were almost immediate. He stumbled around like a drunk uncle at a family wedding, knocking into things, falling, only to stagger upright and try again. He tumbled into the yard from the one broad step off the deck when going out for his final potty break. He had another seizure late that night and yet another early the next morning. He was clustering. The vet ordered me to increase the dosage in an attempt to break the cycle and gain control. Enzo had experienced three grand mal seizures in a 36-hour period. Exhausted, he slept. Equally exhausted and emotionally drained, I stayed home to keep watch over him.

I notified our tracking coach that we’d be on hiatus for an undetermined amount of time, but would follow along with classmates’ videos and read the lectures. She sent me a message that brought dawn to my dark day. She had actually worked with and trained a German Shepherd who was diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy. No, his tracking style wasn’t straight, nor was he fast. But! He didn’t know that; he was having fun! She told me to hang in there. My tracking classmates sent their love and support. It was a warm, good feeling. I kept reminding myself, Paris… remember? Not Rome. Paris. Paris and time.

It took nearly ten days for Enzo to acclimate to the new drug in his system and resume walking with some semblance of coordination. (There were a couple of days when I was quite certain we’d wind up in the ER, needing stitches due to a fall or collision of some sort.) But two weeks later we were back to tracking and I proudly submitted our post-phenobarbital video for review. It wasn’t pretty. But it was Enzo giving it his best. He was committed. He was tracking. He deserved to have it reviewed. I appreciated the honest comments. I appreciated the support. And it was good to be having fun again, learning and doing something we both love.

Spinone Italiano in field

It’s okay. I’m okay. Enzo has a disease. There is no cure. We will manage it and make every effort to enjoy each day- the way Enzo does. We hike with Finn every morning. We track several times a week. We still wobble and weave, but slowly and steadily our corners are improving. We are even back to trick training. Our bow to the cue of “TAH-Dah!” is coming along nicely. Yes, there will be some bad days ahead. But we will concentrate on the good days we share and savor each one, n’est-ce pas?