Monday, March 26, 2012

The night the sky fell

It’s dark outside. The windows act like mirrors reflecting your life at you, all golden and glowy and warm. You’re standing in the kitchen talking to your husband, throwing a ball for your dog. You toss it in the air straight to her and she clamps her jaws around it. The ball is too big for her mouth but she insists on jamming it in there anyway. She heads off on a foot stomping, tail wagging, one dog parade around the kitchen table.

You laugh at something your husband says and then glance at your dog. She is jerking her head at a strange angle towards her backend, toenails skittering almost rhythmically on the floor, over and over again, the ball is still clamped in her mouth and she seems to be having trouble breathing around it. It is like she’s stuck in a loop, a broken record. “Are you okay?” you say as you realize she’s not and you are by her side wrapping your arms around her chest and easing her to the floor before her knees buckle.

Your husband is there too, cradling her head, the ball has bounced away somewhere, and one of you says it out loud, matter-of-fact and disbelieving at the same time, “She’s having a seizure.”

And then your dog is convulsing on the floor and there’s a puddle spreading under her of drool and pee and you’re vaguely aware that you are kneeling in it but you don’t care because your hands are on your dog’s body, her short black fur sticking up in tufts between your fingers, and you’re talking to her, trying to calm her down, trying to call her back and you feel like ten minutes have already gone past and shouldn’t she have stopped by now? She’s making the most horrible choking, gagging sounds like she can’t breathe and her tongue is hanging limply out the side of her mouth and then you’re sure she is dying right there in front of you on the kitchen floor and you think, “it wasn’t supposed to happen this way.” You’re not ready.

You have time to panic now because suddenly time doesn’t exist, and your husband and you look at each other and you hear yourself ask “What do we do?” and you don’t know what you mean by that because there’s nothing you can do but wait and watch but you’re also thinking of after. What if this is it? What do we do now? Because she’s 11 and ever since she turned ten you’ve wondered how much time you have left, but you’ve never really thought about it, never dwelled on it, just let the idea float around somewhere out there, not ready to face a time when she’s not with you.

And then it’s over. Just like that. And there’s panic in her eyes and she wants to get up.

You tell her it’s okay but she’s agitated, won’t lie still. You can’t make her stay and now she’s pacing wildly and you’re following her in loops around the kitchen, watching. Is she walking the same? Is she holding her head differently? Does she seem focused? Does she know where she is? Shouldn’t she be exhausted, want to sleep?

When she finally lies down on the blanket you folded neatly on the floor for her, she pants heavily and you sit with her on the edge of the blanket, avoiding the wet spot that got doused in water when she kicked over the water dish you put in front of her. Your husband sits on a chair because you don’t want to both crowd in, make her nervous, and you watch, and you talk about why.

But sometimes there is no good reason.

Two days later you are still watching her like a hawk and she looks at you like “What?” and you hug her again for the millionth time that day and she rolls her eyes and sighs that deep “I don’t get humans” sigh and you smile at her and hand her another treat and try to forget and not forget at the same time.


  1. Thanks for stopping by our blog today - I'm glad to have discovered yours as a result.

    I know how scary seizures are - my youngest cat, Finn, had one last year (during the middle of the Gasparilla parade we have here each year and our house is a block off the parade route, no less) and it was incredibly scary. I was alone in the house, and with all the crowds and streets closed down I had no way to take him to the vet. It was over in a minute (felt like a lifetime) and he's never had another one, but it was absolutely terrifying.

    Glad Bear is ok!

  2. I am glad your Finn is okay too! It is terrifying to see your pet in that much distress. I really did think Bear was dying for a minute (more like seconds, but you're right, it did feel like a lifetime!) I hope we never see that again!

  3. Gosh, how ironic. I follow Ina in Alaska, and her Halle just started having seizures a few days ago. Reading her posts tonight (I've finally had some time to catch up on my blog reading) just cast me back in time to June 2004 when Jessie had her first seizure at age 13. Medication is apparently helping Halle, whew! I hope Bear does not have another one, or if he is developing a seizure issue, I hope that it can be controlled with medication. It is terrifying, and yes, a minute feels like an eternity. Whew...

  4. So far so good with Bear. We are still keeping an extra eye on her, but she seems to be just fine. I do really hope that was a one-time thing, it was very stressful for all of us. It must be terrible to have to go through that again and again.

  5. The space between breaths is where we were stuck that night, and while I have supported persons having various types of seizures many times in the past, it was very different when it happens to someone you love.

    Heather and I are both former Firefighters and Medical First Responders for a small country dept, and we are in the process of renewing our certifications in our home community. We "moved house" as Heather would say in 08, and kind of got away from being on a department somewhere along the way.

    In my job I support people with various medical ailments to live fuller and better lives, and it took me a minute realize that Bear was indeed having a seizure.

    I have never felt more powerless, and aware of what effect the passage of time is having on our lives.

    I have noticed Beary getting a bit more gray, and a bit slower, and if anyone around here is the "rounder up'er" of age numbers it is me.

    Since that night I have stopped trying to round anything up, and it is just as well, as it seems to give a hurried tone to some compulsive need to mark the turning of the pages in our lives. Heather has always rolled her eyes at me, when I turn Bears age from 11.5 to 12 in casual conversation.

    Bear...indeed my love you are 11 NOT 12, and I like that just fine :)