Dane is a big, black, mixed breed, Humane Society adoptee that we’ve had for (let me get the paperwork out to check) five and a half years now. He’s almost seven years old and weighs in at over a hundred pounds. He’s smart as a human toddler, playful as a puppy, imaginative (seriously…he pretends), loves children, kills small animals, is a mortal danger to cats, is cooperative and good natured, can’t get enough of people, and is constantly underfoot because he likes to be in on all the action (unless he’s sneaking tomatoes out in the garden at which point he becomes all but invisible).
He’s also had more medical problems than any dog I’ve ever owned. We’ve dealt with everything from excessive drooling, incontinence, and hair loss to multiple accidents and epilepsy. It’s always something with him. Always.
But this year has been the worst. He blew out his back knee in May, which was kind of catastrophic for both he and I because we haven’t been hiking together since. His recovery has been complicated and slow, and I’m trying to come to grips with the fact that he’ll probably never be able to romp across hills and mountains the way he used to. (Of course, said romping is probably what destroyed his knee in the first place, but still.) If he can someday at least sniff and explore along trail-sides, I’ll consider us very lucky.
Around the same time our orthopedic problems were developing, we also lost control of his epileptic seizures. Dane has grand mals and, not only was their frequency drastically increasing, they were beginning to consistently cluster in multiple events. For those who don’t know, clusters are bad because they don’t give the brain enough time to cool off in between seizures, which can lead to brain injury and even death. This was happening in spite of a drastic (and I mean drastic) increase in medication. The seizures also contributed to re-injury of his leg, and the pain levels from that were growing increasingly difficult to manage. He was losing his appetite, refusing to eat and, sometimes, even refusing to take his (many, many, many, many) meds.
The situation was clearly Spiraling Out Of Control (SOOC) and it was at this point I decided to change vets. Old Doctor had been our vet for sixteen years so switching wasn’t easy. However, other than surgeries and continuing to increase the dosage of his meds, (which clearly, to me anyway, wasn’t working), Old Doctor had no other options in his tool kit. And when I asked him if he was willing to work with me in looking for other options, he told me no.
Wha…excuse me? No? Just…no?
I was admittedly a little nonplussed but still appreciative of his honesty.
So I plunged back into the searching-for-a-new-vet world with a heavy focus on alternatives and eventually discovered our new vet, Dr. Out-There. (You want options, baby? I’ll give you OPTIONS…) This woman was a banquet…a freaking cornucopia…of other possibilities, and after walking up and down the buffet line a few times I settled on a couple of new treatments to try.
You know what she suggested for his epilepsy? A homeopathic remedy. A small blue bottle of some kind of tincture with a dropper as delivery system. Now, I’m not unfamiliar with homeopathics. I’ve occasionally used them over the years on myself and the kids, with varying degrees of success. But for advanced epilepsy? Frankly, it seemed like a stretch.
However, I dutifully went home and administered the required dosage (plus a little more because one or two dropperfuls just didn’t seem like nearly enough) and, lo and behold, Dane has not had a seizure for 42 days! Not one. Which has floored me. They were coming nine days apart in clusters but now? Nothing.
(So far anyway. Knock on wood. I hope I’m not jinxing this by writing about it.)
It’s been like a miracle. I can’t begin to describe the relief we’ve been feeling around this house since they stopped. We’ve also had an orthopedic brace custom-made for his leg and it’s made a huge difference in terms of protecting his knee from re-injury and giving the joint support while it slowly heals. (It’s also kind of sexy looking. People keep walking up and telling us that, from a distance, they thought he had a bionic leg.)
The pain is still an issue but we’re able to manage it with a fairly low dose of acetaminophen. And as for his appetite? Well, it’s still off but it turns out that has nothing to do with pain. Far from it. No. Our boy isn’t eating his dog food because he’s eating gallons of garden tomatoes instead. (And yes, gallons is a literal measure.)
At first, I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t gotten one ripe tomato off of five heavily-bearing plants all summer long. Then I started finding the chewed-on but uneaten green ones he left lying around because he’d eaten so many by that point he’d actually grown picky and would only eat the red ones. (He’d turned into a connoisseur.) That was when I realized what was really going on. He wasn’t hungry for his dog food because he was engorged from grazing in the garden.
Well this clearly had to stop so, after erecting a bewildering maze of barriers (which utterly failed), Dane was placed on strict house arrest with only monitored visits to the backyard.
But he’s still refusing to eat. You see, he got used to the chicken bouillon and other moist and delicious tidbits we were putting in his food to try to get him to eat and now he’s not interested in plain dog food anymore. He’s become a picky eater. He walks up to the bowl, sniffs a couple times, then turns and walks away to the backdoor where he collapses and lies looking longingly out at the tomatoes. (Did I mention he’s dramatic, too?)
But…ha ha! Little does he know he’s dealing with a mother who nipped the picky eater tendency in the bud with her other two human children early on in their little lives. This cunning mother has a technique called hunger and, given enough time, it always, always works.
I’ll admit that he’s still wining so far because I think he’s sneaking windfall apples back behind the straw bales when he’s supposed to be pooping. But it doesn’t matter. I’m patient. Unlike Dane I know that, sooner or later, this other food source will dwindle and then, my friends, he’ll be at my mercy.
Oh yes. He’ll eat his dog food again. And like it. This, I promise.
To close, here’s a little video of him in his better days.
copyright Dia Osborn 2011