On a Saturday morning, almost a year after Ralphie's adoption, while he was out in the backyard, I noticed him laying down abnormally, with his head shaking and drooling. I had never observed this before. I rushed outside and snuggled with him and softy talked to him.
Then, uncontrollably, Ralphie's head turned and smacked me on the jaw. So much so, it made me tear up. I was panicked and now hurting. I had no idea what was happening — a heart attack, food poisoning? I rushed into the house and called Dr. Johnson at Blair Small Animal Clinic. We rushed to the vlinic and Doc was able to stop what was happening to Ralphie with a shot of valium, calming both of us down. He explained that Ralphie had had a seizure.
I asked Doc if this was something I had caused — the wrong food, too much or not enough food, not enough or too much exercise? What had I done to have this happen to Ralphie? What was causing them? Doc explained that it was nothing I had done. It was a brain thing. There was nothing I could do to stop them, but the seizures could be managed with medication.
Ralph was prescribed 1.5 pills two times per day. It was no trouble giving them to him, mixed with some peanut butter on the tip of a finger and away they went. We developed a routine in the morning and evening where I would say “medicine” and Ralphie would come to me at the kitchen counter.
Initially, I did not know how to react to the seizures. I was fearful of him having a seizure other than when we were home. But it was not fair to him and Alfie to cut back on our exercise habits, our travels and all our other activities. These seizures were not going to change our enjoyment of life. I came to the conclusion that if he had one while we were out and about, I would comfort him as always, and if we needed assistance I would call friends or the police department. That option was never used.
I had no idea when the seizures would happen. They just did. On some occasions, however, his adopted brother Alfie provided a clue. I would notice Alfie going over and sniff Ralphie's head. Soon after, there would be a seizure.
Sometimes they happened when I was with him; others when I was not. The seizures varied in length. Most were between five to 10 minutes. As drooling was a part of the seizure, if he had one while I was gone, I would see a wet spot on the furniture, and I knew what that meant.
When Ralphie had a seizure while we were on the main floor of the house, I noticed that when it was almost over, he would struggle up to his feet on his shaky legs and walk into the bathroom and lay down for a few minutes. Then he would come out just fine, tail wagging as like nothing had happened.
A similar routine happened if we were in the basement, except he would disappear in the unfinished part of the basement for a few minutes, and then out he came happy as can be. Except for the first couple times I observed this, I never followed him into his “personal recovery spaces.” I didn't want to interfere with a routine he had created for his seizure recovery.
Two incidents stand out. Once, while at Omaha's Hefflinger Dog Park, on a spring day, he had a seizure. He plopped down in the middle of the park. I sat down with him and petted and talked softly to him. Some very concerned people walked by, seeing that Ralphie was shaking and drooling, asked if everything was OK. I briefly explained he was having a seizure and that all would be well in short order. Alfie wandered off at first then came back and laid down beside us.
The second incident was after we had a long day at the Holmes Lake Dog Park in Lincoln. Just after I pulled out of the parking lot, he had a seizure. This one seemed particularly bad as he was really shaking. It went on for a long time. I was particularly distressed as I had no idea where to take him in Lincoln and I was a long way from Blair. I recalled what Doc had said — that a seizure would not cause death, so I headed back to Blair. Ralphie did recover on the drive back. That one seizure in the car was the most terrifying of all.
A thank you
Thanks to all who attended the BowWowMeouLuau! Your on-going support of the Friends of the Jeanette Hunt Animal Shelter is appreciated. Visit our Facebook page to see all that we are doing and ways to help our management of the shelter.
Doug Cook is a member of the Friends of the Jeanette Hunt Animal Shelter Board of Directors.