6 Nov 2013

Diefenbaker


Diefenbaker

If you are a regular reader around here, you might have noticed a lack of talk and pictures recently of our big boy, Diefenbaker.  That's because Dief has moved and is living with a new family.  It's been over a month now, and I think I am finally ready to talk about it. This is a highly emotional topic for me, and I very seriously thought about just sweeping it under the rug, but I know a lot of you loved seeing pictures of him and hearing crazy Dief stories, so I am going to do my best to explain the situation.  Before I get going, please realize that this is only my story and we did what was best for OUR family. That doesn't mean it is right for someone else or that I am giving any sort of advice here - this is simply our experience. 

In March of this year Diefenbaker started having seizures.  The first one happened when I took him to the vet for his yearly check up.  When we walked into the vet's office he went stiff and then fell to the ground and started paddeling all of his legs.  Thankfully I was at the vet's office and she came out right away to help him.  The seizure lasted a few minutes and then he came-to again and stood up. I've never seen a human being have a seizure, but I can tell you that watching a giant dog have one is a very scary sight. To say I was a mess was a bit of an understatement.  I felt completely helpless. 

After he came out of the seizure, it took him about an hour to get back to normal.  He had clearly lost some of his eyesight for a while and wasn't aware where he was.  Slowly but surely I saw our boy emerge and when we left he was back to his normal self.  I discussed options with the vet at that time, but since this was the first seizure, we decided to just leave it and see if it happened again. 

Dief had always been an anxious dog.  He was scared of new situations and people and it would often take a lot of convincing and training to teach him tasks such as go down the stairs.  The vet felt that the seizure could be anxiety induced.  

We took him back to the vet a week later, and again, as soon as we walked in the door he had a seizure. This time we were a little more prepared, but we were still quite shaken.  Since he seemed to be only having them at the vet, we again decided to go with a wait and see approach. 

About a month went by and then one night he had a seizure at home.  It was the longest one he'd had to date and it took him almost 2 hours after the seizure to come back to his normal self.  He wandered around the house and yard and he clearly couldn't see where he was going.  He bumped into walls and tripped on things.  He wandered into the yard and fell into one of the window wells.  It was a terrifying sight. He  had never showed any signs of aggression, but we were always very cautious during this period to not approach him as a scared dog can often be unpredictable.  

I was scared that he'd have a seizure when I was home alone and I wouldn't be able to carry him on my own.  If he went down the stairs and couldn't come back up, there was no way that I'd be able to help him.  It also terrified us that he'd have a seizure one time while Fin was around. Having a very curious toddler and a seizing dog is not a combination that we were comfortable with in our home. 

By this point, we were actively looking for a new house, and felt that if we could move into a house with more space it would be better for him.  We also wanted to find a house that wasn't on a busy street so that he wouldn't be agitated by people and cars driving by.  In our old house we had our TV in the basement, and Dief was scared of the stairs so he didn't come downstairs.  Sometimes we'd carry him down, but that was tough on both him and Mr. Swell (a 130 lb dog is not easy to lift). We were hoping we'd be able to find a home where he'd be able to be with us at all times, which would hopefully help his anxiety.

The next 6 months carried on with him having a seizure about once a month.  We continued to connect with our vet on a regular basis, but she still felt that he wasn't in need of any medication yet. We also hired a dog behaviorist to help us with Dief's anxiety. He seemed to be getting better and was becoming much more responsive to new people. 

We took possession of our new house 5 weeks before we had to move out of our old house.  We introduced Dief to the new house slowly and brought him over with us many times while we worked.  It took him a while, but he seemed to get used to the new space.  

In early September we moved into our new house.  He was doing quite well, but then the seizures started again.  One night he woke us up and was having a seizure.  We stayed up with him for several hours until he was settled again, and in the morning he seemed fine.  We both went to work that day, but after I came home I noticed he had 2 more seizures during the day.  That night he had 2 more seizures before dinner. He seemed very agitated and was having a hard time settling.  I couldn't carry him by myself, so once Mr. Swell came home from a meeting, we loaded Dief into the car and took him to the animal hospital.

Diefenbaker


The hospital admitted him overnight and started him on medication (Phenobarbital).  He came home 24 hours later, but still had a long way to recovery.  They had loaded him on drugs to try and stop the seizures, and it was taking his body time to adjust.  Over the next few weeks we noticed that although the seizures had seemed to stop, we no longer had our same dog.  He had forgotten basic commands such as sit and stay, and had regressed to be much like a puppy again.  We were very worried with him around Fin as he no longer had good spacial awareness.  He knocked her down more times than I'd like to admit - usually from not realizing where his back end was.  It was such a sad time and we were all really struggling on where to go from there.

We finally decided that something needed to be done as this wasn't working for anyone in our family  - including Dief.  We sat down with our veterinarian and had a very serious talk about what to do.  She indicated to us that if we wanted to keep him, we needed to make some adjustments in our life.  Dief shouldn't be left alone to wander at night, especially with a toddler who wasn't in a crib anymore. If he had a seizure and Fin was the first one to come up to him, it could be a bad situation.  We also needed to figure out something for the days he was home alone as none of us were comfortable with the possibility of him having a seizure alone.  

After much soul searching (and a lot of crying and sleepless nights), we ultimately made the decision that our home wasn't the right place for Dief any longer.  We didn't have the capacity to give him what he needed.  We also knew though, that it was going to be a miracle to find a family who would be the right fit for him and who would be willing to take him on with his medical condition. 

We called quite a few rescue organizations all of whom said they wouldn't take him.  We eventually found one that was so kind and caring and said they would do their best to find a foster home for him that would be the right fit. We emphasized over and over what he needed, and that he would not be able to handle going from home to home.  A few days later they came back to us with an offer from a family to take him.  We spoke with the family on the phone and they seemed like the perfect fit.  They were a retired couple with 3 other dogs, who were home all day.  They had also had a dog in the past who had epilepsy, so they were very familiar with seizures and were comfortable taking on his medications, etc. When they came to pick him up, they said they would be adopting him, not just fostering him, which was a huge relief to us.  They are really lovely people and we can't thank them enough for what they have done for Dief.

Diefenbaker

It's been 5 weeks since Dief went to live with his new family, and although we miss him dearly, we still feel that it was the right decision. I am happy that he now has the attention that he needs and that he will have other dogs around to help him.  I realize that some of you might not agree with or understand our decision, but I will reiterate what I said at the top of this post - this is what worked for us.  

Thanks for reading friends.

p.s. I'll be moderating comments on this post. 









33 comments:

  1. Oh this made me cry! Poor Diefenbaker! My one cat had seizures so I know how bad they can be.
    I hope he is doing fine. Do you still talk to the people?
    Thanks so much for sharing, I know it was hard for you.

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  2. Tough decision, I can imagine. Sounds like you did the best thing for the dog.

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  3. oh kelly- my heart just broke for you. i spent all yesterday crying about my own dog and my post toay was about him a bit... they are a part of us. i know that what you did was best for your family and for dief. thinking of oyu.

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  4. My heart is so heavy for you right now. Dogs are one of the hardest things to let go of and so helpless when you have to. A little over a month ago my relationship ended and one of the hardest part of that ending was the endless time spent with his dog/ our dog. As much as the dog was his, he had also become such a huge part of my life as well. While I still see my buddy whenever I want, the void is still there and hard to cope with. I think I will eventually get my own, because life is just better when you have a furry friend to share it with.

    Dief probaby doesnt understand now, but the decisions are hard to make and are for the best of everyone. Some people are unable to understand this. As much as a dog is a part of the family and like your kid, several times you have to make the hard decision to realize that he is still a dog, and that there are better options.

    It hurts now, but you made the best decision for everyone and itll get easier to accept that in the future. Hows the little lady taking it? Do you think that in time you will look for another pet?

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    1. Im so sorry to hear that you are struggling too. Its not easy, thats for sure. Agreed, that its such a personal decision and not everyone will understand. We had much judgement around our decision and we finally just had to block the world out and trust our guts in knowing what was right for our family. Fin is taking it just fine. I think shes actually relieved as it wasnt much fun in the end and she was getting knocked quite a bit. She does still ask about him, but not often, and we are now able to look at pictures of him and talk about it. I dont think we will have another pet for a while - we need a break....but I am sure one day she will be begging us for a hamster or something! Thanks for the comment. Have a good day.

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  5. Im so sorry! Im glad you were able to find the perfect home for him, though.

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  6. Kelly - my heart breaks for you and your family. Please know though, I think that your familys decision was the most loving and caring for Diefenbaker. I am so happy to know that he has found a loving adoptive home.

    I was a pet sitter in college and one of my regular clients was a couple who had three chocolate labs, one of which had epilepsy. Choco was a sweet boy, but even medicated, he would still have seizures from time to time. The first time it happened while I was there, even though I knew it could happen, it was still unsettling. I remember just holding that precious big boy and crying like a baby. It was so hard to see such a strong guy brought down that way.

    I cant even imagine how difficult that would be with one of your own. I think your familys very personal decision was admirable as it provided for the very best in care options.

    Thank you, for being so willing to share such a personal part of your familys life. And thank you for sharing so many wonderful photos of your life with Dief, mementos of his life that I know you will treasure always.

    Let the healing begin. :)

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    1. Thank you Erica. Yes, its definitely hard to see big strong dogs ravished by illness. Its even harder to not be able to fully communicate with them. I really appreciate your kind words. Thank you.

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  7. As you know my friend we had to make a heart breaking decision regarding our pup Polly. :( this post is so heart wrenching, I can feel your pain and anguish! The bravest most selfless thing, thats what you and Mr. Swell have done, for your family and for your Dief! Brave lady! I am trying to write my Polly post, its a very hard one... she pops into my head and is right there most days, its still very tender! Thanks for sharing! xo

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    1. Thank you Laurie! My heart breaks for you too. Write your Polly post and then sit on it, and edit it, and sit on it, and dont publish it until you are good and ready. I sat on this post for weeks and weeks and just knew that I wasnt ready to talk about it yet. Then the time comes and it feels like closure. Virtual hugs for you! <3

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    2. Thanks Kelly! I will do that, great advice! xo

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  8. Oh Kelly...my heart is just breaking for you right now. I cannot even imagine how hard that was for you all and what you did just goes to show how much you love your boy. Sometimes the hardest thing is finally admitting that one cant do it all as much as your heart wants to...I think you acted in Diefs best interests and I am sure he is loving being surrounded by all the other animals. Thinking of you today and sending you a big ole virtual hug. :(

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  9. Oh my gosh! Thats so sad!! I am a firm believer that pets are so much more an actual part of the family then just "pets". I am so sorry you had to give him away, but like you said, you did what was right for your family (and Dief) and thats all you can do. Im so glad you were able to find him a good home and maybe you can still see him once in a while! (Is that an option?) I cant imagine how hard that had to be to do. My heart goes out to you and your family!! <333

    Runt
    [email protected]
    www.runtspickins.wordpress.com

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  10. Thanks for sharing Kelly. I know its hard... both the situation and sharing the story here in blogland. You are such a great momma - both to Dief and Fin. You made the best decision for the both of them and thats what great moms do.

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  11. What a tough, sad situation. I think you absolutely did the right thing- you worked on it for months, and then when you couldnt work towards helping him physically you worked towards helping him find a safer place to be. I have a rescue dog and have fosteedr dogs for rescue too and understand how concerning it can be to find the right home for the right dog- wonderful that you found the perfect new place for him. :)

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    1. Thanks Stephanie. Yes, we did work on it for months. I dont give up on things easily and the one thing I just kept thinking is that we were such failures. It took us a while to come to realization that we werent failing - we just couldnt give him what he needed any more. I am so happy that we were able to find a good home for him and I really hope hes doing well.

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  12. This post brought me to tears. All growing up, I hated dogs. So so much. I had absolutely no interest in them. When me and Aaron got married, he begged for us to get a dog. So we got Indy. A year later we got Indy a brother: Buster. I cant even think of enough words for how much those 2 have changed my life. Dogs have amazing spirits and are definitely family members. Since these are my first EVER dogs, I always dread the day that they will no longer be with us. So when I read things like this, I just feel heart ache right along side you. Im happy that you guys were able to find a home for Dief and his new needs. Youll for sure be in my thoughts and prayers for comfort while you adjust. xo

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    1. You are very right - they do have amazing spirits, and as soon as he left there was definitely a big hole in the house. When I am alone, now i am really alone. Thanks for your lovely words.

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  13. Oh, Kelly. What a tough decision to have to make. I think the thing is, though, that you made a decision that was not just best for you - but also for Dief and for Fin. You had to remove that potential disaster (Fin getting hurt, Dief having to be put down, etc) so that everyone could live a better life.

    Its so hard, because dogs are such a part of our families. But at the same time, theyre dogs. They dont understand that they cant lash out in anger when theyre confused. They cant express their anxieties. We cant explain, "Hey... you just seized. Lie down and have a rest for a bit."

    I think you made a brave and wise choice. I can imagine the sadness and guilt thats wrapped up in it, but now Dief has people with him all day, every day. And you arent contributing to his anxiety by worrying about him, or Fin, or seizures, etc. I hope that you found some catharsis in writing this post... I think it is a beautifully written one.

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  14. What an extremely difficult decision. I know it was a painful one to make too, but it was the right choice. My heart breaks for you because even though it was the right decision I know it wasnt easy.

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  15. Im sorry you had to make such a hard decision. But so glad that Dief found a home. We had to give up a dog after we had our daughter and the dogs anxiety issues just overcame her.

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    1. Thanks Jill. Kids and dogs dont always mix :(

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  16. My daughter is seizure prone, so I understand how frightening they can be. I am sorry that you had to come about a hard decision, but I do think you made a wise and considerate choice. Wishing you continued peace about this situation!

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  17. Kelly, your story brought sadness to my heart, yet joy knowing how much you and your family loved him. What you did, showed just how much you did love Dief. Please keep us updated if you can on how he is doing with his new family.

    God Bless you,
    Patty

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    1. Thanks very much Patty. I appreciate the kind words. We have decided to not maintain contact with the new owners - its easier for us that way. Have a nice weekend.

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  18. Im so sorry you had to go through this. Im so sorry for Dief and for you and your heartbreak and your need to make that decision. Im so sorry. You did the right thing regardless of how hard it must have been for you.

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  19. Oh, that must of been so hard. I have always had dogs and sometimes making the right decision for you and your dog can be the toughest thing to do. I know you loved him and Im glad you found a good home for him.

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  20. Im so very sorry you had to go through this. Its never easy to make a decision like this, but I know that you did all you could and make the decision that was best for your family.

    Hugs!

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