October 16, 2013
Penny Eats a Bee
Today I spent a long time playing with Cleo, my oldest son's dog. She is a tall caramel colored standard poodle with incredible patience and love for her owners, including my granddaughter who occasionally insists in dressing the dog up in dancing tights and tutu. Chasing Cleo around the yard and playing tug o' war with each of us on an end of a frayed rope, reminded me of how much I miss our dog, Penny. The next three posts are sequential and were written as things happened. 24 September 2007 It has been a long night. Penny is the white with brown spots English setter, that is my fairly constant companion. When I sit on the back porch, she sits with me. When I write she lies under the desk by my feet. She only deserts me when my wife, Deni, is knitting. Then she curls up on the sofa next to the balls of yarn. Yesterday, while we sat on the back porch she ate a bee. She looked irritated for a moment but seemed fine. About 8 pm I was working on some essays when my son, Avi, rushed in and said, "Something's wrong with Penny." I jumped up and hurried out to the living room where Avi and my wife were desperately trying to soothe Penny. She was in the midst of a massive grand-mal seizure. Her tongue was lolling out, thick froth drooling from her mouth, and her legs spasmodically kicking as if she were running. Her bladder had let go, her eyes blank. I jumped in to cradle and comfort her, but it was obvious that she was not registering anything but the terror of being trapped in a body that was betraying her. It lasted a long time ... at least 10 minutes. When the seizure finally passed, I was soaked with drool and urine, but so grateful that her body had calmed. Deni, in the meantime, had been on the phone with the vet. It was after pm on a Sunday, and she had been told that the nearest emergency facility open was more than 20 miles away. Penny wanted to get to her feet, but they wouldn't stay under her. She seemed desperate to move. I figured that the spasms had affected her motor control and had probably cramped her muscles as well. I picked her up and carried her to the car. We left Avi at the house and Deni sat in the back soothing our dogher as we zipped along the dark winding country roads. Penny loves to ride in the car and she calmed down a bit and even fell asleep. At the vet's I carried her in, but she seemed to want to be on her feet. I set her down and snapped a leash on her collar. There were other animals there so I kept the leash short as they took the intake information. Penny kept walking into things and straining at the leash. Finally we were put in an examination room. We waited for ten minutes. Penny seemed desperate to leave, which was unusual for her. she usually likes trips to the vet. She was constantly straining at the leash and getting it tangled around the furniture. We figured that she was upset about the other animals so my wife went to stand in the hallway to wait for the vet while I let Penny roam at will in the small room. She kept circling the room obsessively keeping close to the walls and getting her head jammed into the corners. I realized that she was, at least temporarily, blind. The vet finally came about twenty minutes later. She confirmed my assumption of grand mal, told us what the probable causes were in a dog her age, which included diabetes, thyroid problems and brain lesions. She said that the walking and blindness were Post Ictal behaviors. She suggested that we leave her overnight. They would put her on a valium drip and monitor her. Worried about the delays we had already seen, we decided against that. She said she'd give us some valium suppositories in case there was another seizure and left. Deni stayed to wait for the medication and to pay the bill. I took Penny out to the parking lot to let her walk and get her out of an environment that was clearly disturbing to her. We waited outside for at least another half hour before the vet finally got back to my wife with the medication, reinforcing the correctness of our decision to bring Penny home. We drove home. Penny quietly dozing. When we got back to the house at 10:30, we settled her back on the couch in a nest of blankets. Deni sat next to her and listened to the television while I went into my office to do a little more work. Or at least that's what I though I would do. Instead I popped Google open and started searching about dog seizures. I found that there was a lot that the vet had not told us about. The length of the seizure made it a "Status Epilecticus" and is potentially life-threatening, and there are so many potential causes that they fill an entire page. Eating a bee was listed. Deni turned off the TV after a while and went in to get ready for bed. Suddenly we heard Penny's claws tip-tapping along. She had gotten off the sofa and walked down the hallway to the bedroom where the dog bed she sleeps on normally is. This cheered us up. She seemed to be getting back to normal. Penny curled up on her bed, Deni curled up on ours with a book, and I went back to write a little more. About midnight I called it quits. I went in and got ready for bed, checking Penny who was sleeping soundly. I read for a short time until exhausted I turned out the lights. I woke instantly at about 2:30 am, as did Deni. Even in the dark we could tell that Penny was having another seizure. I dropped to the floor next to her and cradled her while Deni got the suppositories. Let me tell you about these "suppositories" ... These were not glycerine insert them and let 'em melt types. They consisted of a small glass bottle with a sealed cap filled with liquid a syringe, and a tube for insertion. The first one slipped out of Deni's hands as she tried to get the cap off and spilled its contents on the bed. The second one went better ... she got the syringe filled and stuck the insertion tube on the end, greased it with K-Y and lifted Penny's tail. I did my best to hold her still, but a sudden spasm yanked the tube of the syringe and half the contents spurted over her fur and the dog bed. I hoped it would be enough, we only had one dose left. We took her back out to the couch where it was easier to hold her. The seizure wouldn't stop. Finally Deni filled the last syringe and we managed to get it all in. Suddenly I remembered something I had read earlier that night and sent her out to the kitchen for an ice pack. I put it on Penny's back near the base of her rib cage. Slowly, the spasms started to decrease in intensity. Deni and I have been switching off since then, sitting next to Penny and holding her. She has tried to walk, but cannot. her forelegs seem fine but her back legs can't seem to function properly. I just went out to check on them. They are lying on the couch, one on each end, sound asleep. It is 7 am. In an hour the office of Penny's regular vet will open. I hope for the best but dread what they will say.