“E” is for Epilepsy and “E” is for

Spinone Italiano on bed


I awake to the scrabbling of paws on wood floor and thumping. Rolling to turn on the light, I know full well that Finn is having another bout of ‘chase-the-ball’ back leg spasms. I just need to lay a hand, soothe, and say his name to quiet him. But I see Finn, curled, fast asleep. There’s a disconnect. My mind races to catch up, while my eyes take in my other boy in the corner of the bedroom, flipped on his side, half against the wall, legs paddling while his body twitches and bucks violently.

I yell to my husband and fly to Enzo. Heart and mind diverge (as they often due in times of crisis) Heart crumbling into a disbelieving jibbering ‘nonono–not Enzo–IjustlostBess’, while Brain harshly curses, “Snap out of it! THIS INSTANT He needs you.” And Brain takes over as Heart sobs in the the corner.

Adrenaline races to accompany Brain; Enzo is hauled out of the corner, laid gently to one side, head eased up onto his bed, off the hardwood floor. Heart shows up and with soft hands, begins to channel love and peace into this cherished boy, willing the convulsions to cease. Softly, Heart whispers, “Enzo, stay. Stay with me. You are loved. You are needed, I love you. I love you, I love you.” And Brain, ever pragmatic, begins to take in the specifics the veterinarian will require–while at the same time counting off the seconds, 1-one-thousand, 2-one-thousand–in an attempt to gauge the duration, while noting: whole body tremors; eyes wide, unfocused, staring; gobs of foamy saliva everywhere; muzzle soaked, dripping; jaws chattering then suddenly rigid, frozen halfway open in a rictus grin. Then, stillness. Complete and utter stillness. Is he still breathing?? “Mygod Mygod” Then, yes. Yes he breathing; his chest rises and falls softly, gently. Thank you. Heart weeps with relief.

Slowly Enzo raises his head. Confusion is paramount in his soft honey-brown eyes, the left one containing a flecked chunk of pure gold. We are quiet my husband and I, watching, waiting. Then I whisper, “Hey buddy…” and he struggles to rise, tottering, nearly falling over. I rise with him and he leans heavily against me as I choke back a sob. He’s okay. He’s okay. He stumble-walks between my husband and I for petting and comfort; then I see that Finn is just behind us, standing quietly, solemn and solid, a dear comforting presence.

Something in me knows Enzo needs to go outside, but I have concerns about him navigating the stairs. He weaves and wobbles, and we hang out in the bedroom, 1:11 am, estimating the seizure lasted for one to one-and-half minutes; with the possibility of two minutes as I wasn’t aware of the onset. When Enzo is visibly steady, we head down the stairs and out into the back yard. He still appears somewhat shaky, a bit confused, but I act as though all is well–this is normal–and both boys go pee. As Enzo evacuates his bowels, I am glad I listened to the inner voice.

Back upstairs, I wipe up the pools of saliva on floor, Finn immediately curls into a ball on his bed and dozes off. I head to bed, noticing only then that the lap of my nightgown is completely drenched. I change, then crawl under the blankets, exhausted, spent. Enzo is restless, pacing, from his bed to ours. He lays beside our bed, then whines. I lower my hand to stroke his back, but he rises, turns, then lays back down again. Another low whine. My heart begins to hammer and I wonder if he’s going to seize again. He gets up and pads softly across the bedroom, out into the hall, and into my sewing room, where the floor is carpeted. I listen hard, hear him lay down and exhale loudly, deeply. I lay awake. Listening. Sleep will be fleeting, if any at all, for me tonight.

The next morning I call the veterinarian. Before the office is even open. I leave a reasonably coherent message about what took place. In less than 2 minutes, the phone rings and they’re calling me back. I adore my veterinarian. She asks a series of questions and an appointment for that very day is booked. (Have I said how much I love my vet?)

It’s been over two weeks since Enzo’s seizure. He is fully recovered. He underwent a full-blown physical plus diagnostic testing, a complete blood count, serum biochemistry, urinalysis and fecal. These various tests screened for clues to the health of his body’s organs and tissues, any viral, bacterial, fungal, or parasitic causes, as well as gauging platelet counts, white blood cell counts, levels of glucose, and other metabolic diseases. Results were all negative. In other words, everything is functioning perfectly, just as it should. The preliminary diagnosis? Idiopathic epilepsy. What is ‘idiopathic’ and why ‘preliminary’, you ask? Well, in the medical field, idiopathic loosely translates to: ‘no frick’n clue what caused that’ and preliminary denotes that until he has another… it’s too early to say.

It’s been over two weeks since Enzo’s seizure. I am not fully recovered. Every time he twitches in his sleep, or moans during a dream, or his paws scrabble lightly on the floor, I sit bolt upright, eyes locked on his sleeping form, heart racing. My focus has shifted. Originally, we tracked for practice to become certified and it was fun. Now, we track for fun and if he becomes certified, fabulous. I’ve had the hard realities of life smack me upside the head: I don’t know what will happen; I don’t know how long he’ll be with me; I took for granted he would live to be 12 to 14 years old. There is no guarantee. I savor each day.

I leave you with the wise words of Cassia Turcotte, trainer for our Gun Dog Foundations class. In our last lecture, before she sent us off into the fields to have fun and train with our dogs, she reminded us, “Enjoy the time you have with your dogs–it’s never long enough despite any accomplishments!”