The first one came at 5am. It was a huffing sound in the darkness. It seemed to go on and on. My skin prickled under the covers. Then the sound of my dog, Lincoln’s, crate shaking, the eerie, high clang of metal hitting metal. The sharp scent of urine. My husband jumped out of bed and threw on the light. He pulled Link out of his bed, and we watched, open mouthed, as his rigid body shook. I couldn’t even think.
“He’s having a seizure” Josh said. I didn’t know what that meant.
Fear crept cold up my chest and throat as we watched him recover, his eyes wild and searching ours for answers, for comfort. He couldn’t stand. His muscles wouldn’t follow his command. He just strained and flopped until Josh pinned him to the floor. My heart cracked and a sob escaped. Seconds passed like years. I just kept saying, “It’s going to be okay baby,” “just lay down Link, it’ll be over soon,” and singing lullabies even though I had no clue if I was telling the truth.
Eventually Josh took him outside while I googled. Apparently a one-off seizure isn’t terribly uncommon, or problematic. Only scary as hell. We don’t have stairs or a pool, so we seizure proofed best we could and tried to move on.
I don’t think the possibility of it happening again ever left the back of our minds.
And it did happen again. 2 weeks later, again at 5 am, only this time, Link somehow got his jaw locked on the bars of his crate, and it was even more painful to watch as he shook and strained and lost bladder and bowel control.
I took him to the vet.
“Epilepsy” they said after a blood test. “If he has another seizure in the next month, we’ll put him on Phenobarbital.”
I have to wait for it to happen again? I thought. Before I can do anything to help my dog I have to live through another seizure. We have to wait on pins and needles to be jolted awake, fumbling in the dark to provide some comfort to our first baby? I came home happy that he didn’t have a brain tumor, but filled with a level of dread that I’ve only felt a couple of times before – the week before Willa was born, waiting to go into natural labor and knowing that all that waited for me was pain, and the few days before my thesis presentation.
Because his first two seizures were 2 weeks apart, I thought that the next one would be too. The Dr. seemed to think that he probably had them when he was in a really deep sleep, so I was expecting his next one to be in his bed again.
It wasn’t two weeks later, and it wasn’t in his bed. Later that same day, he was napping on my lap on the couch and his whole body stiffened and the unmistakable huffing began. I hate that my first thought was for the protection of my couch. I pulled a throw blanket under his backside and I ripped my shirt off and stuffed it under his head. Then I held all 50-something pounds of him against the back of the couch for the next seeming eternity while he finished seizing, and then got control of his limbs back. I didn’t want him to fall off the couch and hurt himself, and I’m not strong enough to get him down alone.
I called the vet from the back porch while Link relieved himself in the yard. Then I scrubbed poop and frothy drool off my couch. He’s on drugs now, and more than a month later he hasn’t had any more issues.
If you know me, you know that I’m not very good with spontaneity. I like planning. I like advanced planning. I like routine. I’m very uncomfortable with being out of control, and Lincoln’s epilepsy is the worst kind for me. I don’t know enough about the condition to be comfortable. I don’t know when it is going to happen again. I don’t know how he is feeling or what I can really do to help him. And, I’m faced with the reality that dogs don’t live forever.
I found myself in a similar situation this past weekend. My short story “The Ice Cream Thief” was accepted for publication last week, and these things usually take some time, so I thought I would at least have a few weeks to figure out how to deal with it. But, within a couple of days it was online for the world to see. I took a couple of days before I posted the link on facebook, but those days were filled with the same dread I’d experienced in the vet’s office.
Isn’t being published what I want? You ask – well, yes. But – it’s also scary for me. Up to this point, the only people to read my work are people who know me, and having my story published puts me in a new bracket, and it’s scary. Am I any good at this? It’s also a tough story, and I worried/worry about reactions.
I had set something in motion, but I can’t control the outcomes. Not all of them. But then I came across this quote from Maya Angelou:
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
Link is 8 years old. I can worry about his health, or I can enjoy his snuggles and snurps while I have them. I can write my stories and never share them, and never have anyone say anything bad (or good) about them. Or, I can suck it up and do what I love, and share it, and hope that someone, somewhere loves it too.