Bricks & Paris

“Hi, my name is Cheryl and it’s been 27 days since Enzo’s…” “Hi, my name is Cheryl and it’s been 15 days since Enzo’s last….” “Hi, my name is Cheryl and it’s been 12 days since Enzo’s last seizure.” The other shoe has dropped; only it wasn’t a shoe, it was a brick. Two bricks in fact.

sleeping Spinone

The very night I posted the blog about Enzo’s first seizure, he had another one. As my husband was making his way back to bed after a midnight snack, he discovered Enzo in my sewing room, pressed up against the cupboard drawers, legs stretched out rigid, entire body shaking and trembling with spasms. We knelt beside him as before, whispering reassurances. As the tremors ceased, he lifted his head, saw me and began growling. My Enzo wasn’t there in those dazed and hard honey-brown eyes. Instead, a scared 84-pound stranger stared up at me growling deep in his chest. The hair on the nape of my neck stood up. Shifting my glance down and sideways, I said quietly, “Move back, slowly.” As we slid backwards, he rocketed up, barking and growling, scrambling away from us, out into the hallway. I quickly closed the door as he continued to growl, head lowered and swaying. My heart was hammering in my chest. My husband was stunned.

I opened the door a sliver and looked out. Enzo had backed up into our bedroom, wobbly and unsteady, moving his head back and forth as if searching for something unseen. I called out softly, “Enzo-Enzo, it’s me. It’s your mama.” Then Finn moved on his bed. Enzo turned quickly towards him and two thoughts occurred to me almost simultaneously: God, don’t let him attack Finn and He’ll recognize Finn. He did. It was immediate. His entire demeanor changed. I knew my boy was back. Wherever he’d been, he was back… confused, bewildered, and frightened, but he was back. I immediately went to him and he pushed his head right into me, tail wagging frantically. It hurt to see him this way.

Less than 48 hours later, he had another one. We were in the kitchen, having dinner. Both dogs were fast asleep on the braided rug in the den. I looked up to see Enzo staggering backward, stumbling and reeling, out of my line of vision, before returning–still moving backwards–then suddenly flipping over, slamming into the small bookcase, his beautiful head smashing into the corner as he went down. I can still hear the sickening crack; at the time, I was certain the impact had killed him.

I have no way to describe the depth of my terror in the days following. I had always said, “Watch the house Boys, I’ll be home soon,” as I left to work with clients. But now I sent out prayers to the Universe as well– please watch over Enzo, please keep him safe, please have no harm come to this dog. My veterinarian was supportive. There were things we could do, medicine that would help, and more tests to run in an effort to find answers. Except there were none to be found.

I lived in fear– petrified of what could or would trigger the next seizure, concerned I wouldn’t be home, frightened the next one would kill him, they were so violent. We stopped tracking because traveling still often made him anxious. I stopped teaching him new tricks because training sessions were fast-paced and exciting. Excitement is a form of stress. Stress could contribute to an episode. So although we still walked or hiked twice a day, I found myself constantly on edge…wondering when the next brick would come crashing through the window. One morning as I sat having my coffee, a sudden wave of sadness threatened to engulf me. I had come to the realization months ago that Enzo would never be my ‘demo dog’. Although just as good natured with other dogs as Bess had been, he was soft and lacked her solid self-confidence. But now? With this? I was fast coming to the conclusion that competition dog sports were out and I was beginning to wonder if that included tracking. Epilepsy had stolen our joy. As I fought off tears, my phone pinged and I looked down to a blurry text message from my eldest daughter.

Once my vision cleared, I was able to read what she’d written: “It’s like this thing I read about having a kid with disabilities–you had all the stuff to go to Rome, the brochures, you studied the language, you had maps, good to go. But then you land in Paris. And Paris is nice, but it’s not what you were expecting or what you’d prepared for. So you have to give yourself adjustment time. Now you’re learning on the fly. And maybe give yourself time to grieve–Paris is lovely, it’s beautiful, but it’s also okay to be sad you’re not in Rome. Does that make sense?”

The beautiful clarity of this simple analogy nearly made me sob with relief. I’m in Paris with Enzo. And it’s going to be okay. We’ll never get to see Michelangelo’s David or The Piéta, as I’d hoped. But I’m confident now that once I get my bearings, brush up on my French, we’ll find the Eiffel Tower–he and I–and the view from the top will be breath taking.

As of this writing, Enzo has been seizure-free for 20 days. I am grateful for the research done by Colorado State University on canine epilepsy. The trials they ran have helped guide my decisions regarding his medication.