Tag: Spinone Italiano

Kismet Thy Name is Giotto

Stella del Nord: Italian for “Star of the North”. A brilliant star, an anchor in the northern sky, helping sailors and travelers for thousands of years determine their direction, its bright glow their guide towards a purposeful destination. As such, the Star of the North has also become a symbol for inspiration and a beacon of hope for many. I felt like one of those lost travelers, sitting at my computer early one morning, missing Enzo so badly, feeling alone, sad beyond words. Then, slowly… my leaden fingers typed out “Spinone Italiano breeders….” and Google finished my sentence with “near me.” That nearly brought a smile to my face. Spinoni aren’t common in these parts. I hit ‘enter’.

Kismet. The only possible explanation. Because: A- I needed a Spinone in my life, now. But the wait list is typically a year, often longer. B- I required a male as Aoife will always be Queen Bee. C- An orange roan, or an orange and white was essential. A brown roan would cut too close to my Enzo-bruised-heart. And finally, it was necessary for me to find an ethical breeder who did rigorous genetic testing. I realize there is no genetic marker for epilepsy, but genetic testing provides information about risk factors for a wide variety of other hereditary diseases. I wanted relief from the uncertainty of other possible health issues.

Kismet. Enter Stella del Nord, exceptional breeders located in Greenland, New Hampshire, a mere 90 minutes from my home. They met all the requirements I had, and then some. As with Aoife’s breeders, I became a part of their family. I made friends for life. And here He is, a mere 4 months after my world shattered and I lost my best friend. Here he is, Stella Del Nord’s God of Loyalty, healing my broken heart with his soulful eyes, his miniature (often wet) Spinone beard, and his wee fluffy brows. Here he is, making me laugh with his silly-big paws, puppy-tumbling, and bounce-barks as he and Aoife play. And I watch- knowing this is good for my girl, too. Knowing she misses Enzo as well. Knowing this soon-to-be-bigger-than-she-is puppy is also healing her heart.


Once again I have a purposeful destination. One of our first stops along the way is puppy kindergarten with my dear friend and colleague Helen St. Pierre from No Monkey Business. Why you may ask, would I take him somewhere else when I run a perfectly legitimate and successful dog training business? Well there are a lot of reasons, but two of the most important being Helen is my friend… and Helen has graduation gowns. Yep. Just wait until you see his graduation picture friends and neighbors. Worth every damn dime of the class fee.

We are already doing field work. My glorious boy and I will work together to train for his Natural Ability test under NAVHDA, the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association. He will be field tested and embrace what he’s been bred to do for hundreds of years. And then, because I don’t hunt but am obligated to provide an outlet for his natural instincts, my plan is to introduce him to tracking. My sincere hope is that he loves it as much as Enzo and I did. Is there an AKC Tracking Dog title in our future? Perhaps. But that truly doesn’t matter. What matters is the journey. What matters is that this beautiful boy is a beacon of hope for all that is possible once again.

Kismet. The God of Loyalty, who is also known to his family and friends as Giotto. Pronounced “Jaw-toe”, it is an Italian word meaning “Pledge of Peace”. We can all use peace in our lives…. right along with loyalty, laughter, good friends, and love. Everyone, please welcome this beautiful boy to the Leash & Hand family, to my family. He is my companion and my friend. He is Aoife’s playmate and napping buddy. I feel so blessed, so fortunate. This was meant to be.

Picking up the Pieces

There’s pain. I miss him terribly. The hole in my life is huge. Sometimes, out of the blue, it hits me: “THIS IS IT, he’s NEVER coming back” and I feel my heart start to pound; it’s hard to catch my breath. I feel like the grief is going to sweep me away and I struggle to repeat the mantra I learned so long ago with Bess, “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.” Or, at least I try to, through the tears. “Why?” I whisper, “Why?” There is no answer.

spinone puppy
Enzo, 7 weeks old: so many hopes & dreams

There’s anger. I have lost three remarkable dogs in three years; one with each year. And the only one I am truly at peace with is Finn. He was 13 and had lived a rich, full, healthy life. He had never known an unkind hand, had never missed a meal. I feel robbed by both Bess’s death and Enzo’s. I didn’t have nearly long enough with Bess. Even though I know she had five wonderful years with me, she deserved more. And Enzo. Enzo wasn’t even four years old. He was in fact, three years and 7 months… to the day. I sometimes rage. It doesn’t help.

Then, there’s guilt. Should I have waited longer? Was there more I could have done? Did I really, truly exhaust all possible routes? Was there another medication I could have tried? And then I remember back to that horrible day: September 19, 2020. He cluster-seized so badly I had to administer rectal diazapam in order to stop the seizures to get him into the Jeep for transport to the emergency veterinarian. I don’t remember getting there. I just remember them coming out to whisk him away. It was COVID and I could not go with him. They took my boy and I remember being alone in the parking lot, sobbing uncontrollably… thinking I would never see him again. He was going to die and I would not be there with him.

And that’s the memory I flashed back to when he first seized after over six glorious, wonderful months–that’s what took control of my thoughts–the fear and the helplessness I felt that day, the violence of the seizures and what they did to him. The pain, my pain at not being able to say, good bye. And the abject terror that he would die alone, without me. When the clinic called and told me he was finally stable, when they told me I could bring him home… I was overjoyed, relieved, and so very thankful. When he saw me, he made this odd, heart-wrenching moan and flew to me. The vet tech had to let go of the leash. I dropped to my knees and just hugged him. He was worn out and looked like hell, but he was alive. We leaned into each other and all was right in the world.

That night, as I sat beside him on the floor while he lay, exhausted, on his bed, his magnificent head on my lap, I made a promise to him, a vow. I promised him that when it was time, it would be on OUR terms. I promised him we would take our last walk together and savor it; it would be a lovely, long one. We would share the last of the French Vanilla ice cream he loved for post-seizure. I promised him we would chat and I would stroke his glorious, velvet ears and laugh at his gigantic slippered feet. I would fluff out his ridiculous eyebrows and he could lay his water-soaked beard on my lap. There would be treats, no pain and no fear. He would know I was by his side. I promised him we would be together when it was time for good-bye.

So on April 20, 2021 when he had two grand mal seizures with a 5-minute respite between them, I told him I hadn’t forgotten my vow. But we still had time. Three days later, he had three grand mal seizures, but since they were spaced a few hours apart, I told him we still had time. But did we? I wasn’t sure. I asked the Universe for more time. I demanded more time. We had plans. We were back tracking in the fields and learning tricks for the Advanced title. He’d finally nailed “back up”. Yeah, it was crooked and wobbly, but when that boy backed up, he swaggered! He had panache. We’d worked hard on that trick and we were both damn proud of it.

And then a few minutes past midnight, on the morning of April 26, they kept coming… and coming. And I knew our time was up. I prayed I had not waited too long. I prayed for a respite before the vet arrived. And my prayers were answered. We had seven and a half hours together, free of seizures. We had our last, glorious walk… and I was able to keep all the promises I had made to my beloved boy. Every. Single. One.


Barba Bagnata’s Ragazzo Dolche CGC, TKI, NW-TEAM 1

ENZO 09/26/17 – 04/26/21

We lost. Epilepsy won.

In time, I will find solace in the memories of the 204 glorious, seizure-free days we were granted before the Monster came raging back and took you. But right now, I am shattered.

Bess and Finn will be there waiting for you. Until we meet again my wonderful, kind, funny, sweet Boy; I love you.

I love you xo

No Answers

but she threw us a life line.

Spinone Italiano at the vet

Let me just start by saying the ride down to Massachusetts for Enzo’s neurology appointment wasn’t any where near as bad as I thought it would be. He held it together for a solid hour before he began to unravel. In an effort to appease him and take his mind off the ride, I played with the windows. We had started the journey with them up, the AC at full blast, and the radio on. Now, I rolled the front windows halfway down and the back windows all the way down so the novel smells could blow right in. He drew in deep, sniffy breaths and seemed somewhat mollified. Ten minutes from our destination though, he let out one loud, explosive bark as if to say shout, “Enough of this!” I assured him we were nearly there.

When I opened the back to let him out, he waited patiently to be released. I noted that despite my best efforts, a new seat belt would be necessary… (how? when? oh never mind.) I offered him a cool drink, but he was more interested in the sounds, sights, and smells in the parking lot. Once he was acclimated, I called the number I had been given to let them know we had arrived. Due to Covid-19, I would not be meeting the neurologist in person, nor would I be allowed inside with Enzo.

The vet tech who answered the phone had a kind voice and I had spoken to her twice, briefly, the day before. She wanted to double check some information and I began to panic… I had left Enzo’s seizure journal at home, knowing I wouldn’t be allowed in and knowing that my vet had faxed all his records here. She assured me there was no problem and they had indeed received all his records, but verification of all his medications and the dosages of each was needed. I calmed and answered her questions. Then she asked, “So, is there anything you’d like us to know?” “Yes,” I said softly as my throat closed over. “I want you to know how much I love him.” I could tell my answer wasn’t expected, but after a moment’s pause she responded, “I will do everything I can to make sure this exam is as stress-free for Enzo as possible. I promise to take very good care of him and I will bring him out to you directly as soon as the doctor is done with him if he’s anxious or upset.” I closed my eyes and nodded my thanks, not trusting myself to speak. It was only later that I realized she couldn’t see me.

When she appeared to collect him, he greeted her warmly, like an old friend. She was delighted and told him what a good, handsome boy he was. (All true.) He was fitted with a hospital collar, much like the bracelets we humans don upon admittance to a hospital. Then with absolutely no hesitation what-so-ever, he trotted briskly off with his new friend, stumpy tail wagging, not a care in the world. I grinned through tears. Such a good boy– I’d had visions of the tech wheedling, cajoling, and possibly even having to pull him along. I had been so worried–about so many things–the travel down, not being able to give him his breakfast in the morning, not being with him, on and on. This jaunty boy was a balm to my heart.

Thirty-five (long) minutes later, my cell phone rang. It was the tech calling to inform me that the neurologist had completed Enzo’s exam and would be phoning me shortly. She then asked if they could take pictures of Enzo for their Instagram page- he was having a ball, charming technicians and doctors alike. I laughed heartily. Of course they could take his picture, and if he was having such a fine time, he was welcome to stay inside, where it was cool until it was time to leave. Outdoors, the temperature was rising and it was getting hot. I got off the phone, grinning from ear-to-ear. That boy.

I had an informative and thoughtful conversation with Dr. Weiss. I liked her style. She was sensible, thorough, and compassionate. There was a warmth in her voice as she laid out the options, then her recommendations. For instance, although an MRI was an option, she did not feel it was warranted as she was 99.9% sure his epilepsy was genetically based; therefore, it would provide her with little, if any, useful information. She felt the same was true for the spinal tap. The only viable option she felt justified in making at this point in time she told me, was medicinal.

She was also blunt: Enzo’s seizure disorder is severe. It’s not going to get better. In fact, in all likelihood as he grows older, it will get worse. But for now, she feels he is an excellent candidate for pulse therapy. His next seizure, (and there will be another one) instead of immediately giving him a dose of his phenobarbital, I will immediately administer a medication called clorazapate and then again every 8 hours for 3 days. The goal is to stop the clustering. The goal is one seizure and one seizure only in a thirty day cycle. She feels this protocol may be able to provide that for Enzo.

I am glad to have the new information, even though some of it was hard to hear. I take comfort in knowing we have a therapy that may bring relief. It’s a life line, and I’m holding on fast….