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