Lucky's Story

Since starting this blog, I haven't posted a whole lot.  But I recently had to reorganize my web hosting, and had to decide whether to keep my story of Lucky Strike or not.  It's an older story, but I don't want to just get rid of it, because it's a memory.  It's not really a happy one overall, but it's a reminder of just how much this boy was loved.  So ... I decided to keep it and move the posts here.  I won't be updating it, I won't be opening comments on it.  It's really mostly for me and Josh.  So there it is.

Aug 19, 2005 - 4:32 am
I heard feet paddling against the wall at the end of the bed where the boys sleep. Nothing new - chasing bunnies in their sleep. I called Lucky's name to wake him up and stop the dream ... but it didn't stop. It started sounding different - less like sleepy scratching and more like hard thumping. I got out of bed to put more effort into waking him up and stepped into a puddle - immediately turned on the light and saw a nightmare.

Lucky was laying on his side, head thrown back and lips curled back into a snarl, his whole body shaking and twitching. I screamed for Josh and dropped to my knees, without a clue of how to help but wanting to just make it stop. I had no idea what was going on - I'd never seen a seizure before. It seemed to go on forever - he was foaming at the mouth and drooling like mad, panting hard and his heart racing. It felt like it was trying to explode and there was nothing I could do. I finally realized that this was a seizure. Still feeling like an eternity had gone by (only about 90 seconds so far!), I was sobbing and sure that I was watching our boy die.

After about 2 minutes total, Lucky stopped seizing. He laid still for a few more minutes, panting hard and trying to catch his breath. He finally got up and we helped him get downstairs and outside. I got online and started my research into what had just happened and what I could do about it. I found, whose owners run an Apple email list like the GH-L, which I joined that night and started asking questions. I didn't even wait for the vet to open - I called and left a message, knowing they would call me as soon as they opened.

Lucky's vet told me that since this was his first seizure, she would like to "wait and see" before starting medications. There are SO many reasons for seizures, and many times that there is just one and never any more. We all hoped this would prove to be the case. Twenty-three days later, we were woken up at 2 am. The vet said that she would still like to wait, that she doesn't like to start meds unless the seizures were more frequent than once a month or so. Thirteen days later, just 3 days after Lucky?s 5th birthday and the day after attending the REGAP picnic, he had his first cluster - 2 seizures within 9 hours. We started phenobarbital the next day.

Since then, Lucky's seizures have continued. We were hopeful when he went 33 days after starting meds - a mild seizure once a month is considered good control by the people on the Epil-K9 list, many of whom deal with weekly clusters. However, the gaps started getting shorter and the clusters got worse - he stopped having singles entirely. Twelve days went by, broken by a cluster of 3 within 45 minutes, which my 8 year old daughter saw. The vet doubled the Pheno dose and gave us a prescription for liquid valium to be given in order to break clusters. An 18 day streak was broken by another cluster - 2 within 90 minutes, starting at 4:30 am. We added Potassium Bromide to his medicines, hoping that the combination would prove to be our "silver bullet" as it had for so many others on the Epi list. 3 days later he had another cluster, although this one was fairly mild and the second seizure seemed to be interrupted by the valium - instead of a full-blown Grand Mal, it stayed a relatively minor "focal" with just his face twitching. I thought for sure that meant we were making progress.

Dec 23, 2005 - 6:11 pm
As we were getting prepared for a weekend of family gatherings and loot bags and dinners, Lucky had a mild GM seizure. It was short and he had almost no ataxia - the post-seizure pacing and blindness and general confusion. I gave Lucky a dose of valium to ward off any more seizures, let him and Nitro outside, and sat down to post to the Epil-K9 list that he had broken a 22 day streak. I mentioned that I was glad to have "gotten it over with before Christmas", though I would have liked to have not had one at all (of course). Oh how naive I was.

Less than five minutes later, Lucky had a focal seizure. He was pacing in the bathroom when he stopped and stared at me with his ears straight up (he does that when he's utterly focused on something). I reached for his head to pet him, and he backed away from me as if he didn't recognize me. That's when he started twitching and drooling. It was short, but he wasn't able to stay standing up on his own - I had to balance him. Two minutes later, another one. I lost track of the timing after the 4th focal. I lost count after the second GM and got on the phone with Josh's mom, the ER vet, and Cheryl Carrol. My two young boys came in to use the bathroom and freaked out when they saw Lucky in the middle of a seizure. This was about 6:30 pm.

By the time Josh's aunt came by to drop off our daughter, Josh's count was up to 11 (8 focal and 3 GM) and I was in tears. Aunt Connie agreed to take the kids to grandma's so that we could take Lucky to the ER. Cheryl said she would meet us there. I had just given Lucky a second dose of valium.

We made it to the ER about 8 pm. Lucky hadn't had any more seizures, and I was starting to feel a little silly for hauling him off to the vet when the valium was obviously (finally) working. They told me that, given how many he had already had, he needed to have a catheter IV (to be able to get valium in quicker) and an overnight watch, just in case. I agreed and signed the papers and we walked back to see where he would be kenneled. On the way he had another seizure, erasing any thoughts of "home-free" or feeling silly ... it was good to see him in very confident and capable hands. We left him there and headed home with the promise of a call if he had any more seizures. I got a fresh battery for my phone and turned the ringer up all the way.

Dec 24, 2005 - 9:10 pm
The night went well - no more seizures, so they said I could come pick him up at 9am (the 12 hour mark). I checked him out, paid the bill ($250!), and took him outside to potty before loading him in the car. 3 minutes later, in the narrow grassy strip next to the back fence, he had another seizure. Back in we went ... for another twelve hours of watch for him and another twelve hours of worry for me. I was starting to lose hope ... we simply couldn't afford much more and might have to make a hard decision.

About 6 pm, I called the ER vet to check on Lucky, only to find out that with the shift change, the new doc wasn't aware that she was supposed to have called me when he had yet another seizure at 3pm. They had taken him outside for a potty break and boom ... it seemed like ANY increased activity brought them on. They confined him to the kennel and hosed down the grate when needed, hoping to avoid any more that way.

Dec 25, 2005 - 11:45 pm
Either that worked and gave his poor brain the rest it needed, or he was just done with them. I brought him home 5 hours ago, and we've done our best to keep him calm and avoid as much "stress" as we can - Nitro wasn't thrilled that he couldn't greet his brother. So far, so good ... as of the time I write this, the total count is 14 seizures in 21 hours, with the last one being 33 hours ago. If we can make it to 48 hours, I might start breathing again.

Dec 27, 2005 - 11:18 pm
Sunday night was rough - Lucky refused to lay down for longer than about 30 minutes, and insisted on going outside 3 times. We kept having to tell him to lay down, to be quiet ... none of us got much sleep.

Monday was better - although to keep him quiet we kept him and Nitro separate for most of the day. His breakfast didn't sit well with him, so the ER vet said we should fast him for 6-8 hours and then try again with dinner. He kept that down fine, so is back to eating normally - and I am once again guarding the trash can (really need to get one like Josh's mom has!).

Part of the day saw Lucky in the crate, not as a punishment, but because he didn't get as agitated in there. That way, he was able to sleep most of the day and I think that helped with staving off seizures. It also gave us the (bright?) idea of taking the crate upstairs for bedtime - we figured he would stay laying down and might not whimper so much. It worked! We were actually able to sleep until about 6 am before he woke us up having to go outside.

So at this point, we have hit the 80 hour mark with no seizures - I have started breathing again!  Today we had to pin Lucky down to take out his IV catheter - he started chewing at it and I knew that was a bad idea. Of course the tape was stuck to his fur and I know from experience that the skin around those things can get good and sore, so he was pretty wild-eyed by the time Josh let go of his head and shoulders.

Jan 1, 2006 - 10:19 am
Happy New Year! Lucky enjoyed the party with us ... although he wasn't happy that we wouldn't let him out with everyone - he didn't understand that we just didn't want him counter-surfing all the food!

So far so good on the seizures - we're at 8 days free now. Lucky has started getting used to the increased medication and has stopped walking around stumbling like he's drunk ... although he is still ravenous and tries to eat Nitro's food whenever he gets a chance. Here's to a good long seizure-free streak!

Jan 6, 2006 - 9:02 pm
Good news - we finally got the blood work results back! Lucky's PB level is within the therapeutic range, meaning there is enough in there to do what it?s supposed to do, and his KBr level is just a tad below therapeutic - so the last increase on that should do the trick. Also, his liver values dropped dramatically ... AST from 119 to 45 (normal range: 0-80) and ALT from 193 to 88 (normal range: 10-110) - I can only attribute that to the addition of the Milk Thistle. Now, I don't expect everyone to know exactly what those letters mean (heck, I don't even know!) ... but the numbers are the important part !

I also talked to the neurologist in Chicago - Dr. Podell. Turns out he is one of the top veterinary neurologists in the country and has patients from all over (Atlanta was mentioned). Found out the basics as far as costs and procedures if we decide to take Lucky up to see him. We're not quite at that point yet, since we're still recovering from the costs of the Christmas "vacation" at the ER, but I hope to be able to take him up sometime soon.

(13.5 days and counting!)

Jan 17, 2006 - 11:35 pm
Lucky has just passed his second-longest streak! Longest so far is 33 days, 6.5 hours (yes, I do keep track that closely!) - next up was just under 24 days, which we have now passed by about 12 hours, for a current run of 24 days, 8.5 hours!  I am still praying for this to continue ... so far no seizures in 2006 and I would LOVE to keep it that way!

As long as this streak does continue then I don't really see a need for spending the extra time and money to talk to a neurologist. We will still get a few more blood tests done, but comparatively, they are much less expensive and therefore easier to think about. The neuro option will be still be there later, should we need it (knocking furiously on wood and crossing fingers, eyes, toes, arms ... whatever!)

Jan 31, 2006 - 8:14 pm
Well, we almost made it all month without a seizure. As it was, Lucky went 37 days, 16 hours, and the break was a very mild short seizure, without any clustering. Bloodwork shows his liver and PB levels still normal, we're waiting on the thyroid test to come back, and it?s too soon to check the KBr - he's only been on the new dose for a month.

We will check the KBr at the end of the month and see how he is there - he should be getting into the therapeutic range on that and then I hope to get decent control.

Mar 17, 2006 - 2:07 pm
Happy St. Patty's Day! It's been a little while since my last update - mostly because there hasn't been much to update! Lucky had his last seizure on February 12th, which was only a 12 day streak, but it was a very mild cluster of 2 and no more since then. That puts us at 32 days today.

I was thinking the other day about the Christmas cluster that started me on the idea of this website. I don?t know why it didn't hit me before, but I realized that we had a live tree up at the time. Evergreens have been blamed as triggers for seizures, but it truly didn't even cross my mind! I'm fairly certain that was a big part of that episode, so live trees will be banned from our living room this Christmas.

I've also decided that stress is a trigger for Lucky ... the last episode he had was the day after a Meet & Greet - we were at PetCo for about 3 hours the afternoon before and he was exhausted. So I will have to limit his M&G's ... maybe an hour instead of 3!

Apr 18, 2006 - 8:18 pm
Well my last update was only a few days shy of another episode ... Lucky's last seizure was on March 22, so we are currently at 27 days seizure-free ... lately his streaks seem to be running 35-40 days, although of course we always want to go longer! Again, it was a mild one, so I'm not worried - it looks like the PB and KBr are working fine.

I took him in to get his vaccinations done last week, and so far the little bit of stress from that hasn't triggered anything. His checkup went well - turns out he has only managed to gain one pound even with all the trash-digging, counter-surfing, and stealing of Nitro's food.

Poor guy ... I can't get him to stop eating, while Nitro won't eat more (and needs to gain a few pounds!) Lucky just doesn't understand why Nitro gets treats in his food (canned food to make it look yummier). I will just have to find something I can add to Lucky's food to make him feel special too!

On a personal note, I was contacted a while back by a woman in Florida who adopted one of Lucky's littermates - Smooth Goin', now named Sydney. Sydney was a greyt racer (unlike Lucky!) and even managed to have a few pups of her own, who I will be watching as they begin racing.

I haven't yet managed to get any of her pictures ready to post, but I am working on it and will add them on a new page here. I?m still hoping to hear from more of his littermates as they get adopted out - should be soon since all greyhounds must retire before their 6th birthday, which is coming up on September 9th!

Apr 27, 2006 - 10:19 pm
If you've been watching this site, you may realize that I have changed the layout a bit. Basically, I turned the epi part into a blog that I can edit from any computer. That makes it a lot easier on the updates!

Right now, I'm hoping that we will pass the usual threshold - Lucky has been running ~37 day cycles for the past few episodes, and we're currently at 36 days. I really hope that the last few were due to our errors - giving meds a little late or having too much stress, etc. If we can keep him quiet and medicated [grin] then maybe we can get over the hump and break another record!

This weekend will actually be a good "stress" test ... we have several 8 & 9 year olds coming over for a birthday party on Saturday, so the activity from that will be a good test of Lucky's stress threshold. If he can survive that, then maybe I can take him back to Meet & Greets!

May 1, 2006 - 8:53 am
I have dreaded this day ...

It is with tears in my eyes and shaky fingers that I must inform those of you who read about Lucky that he has earned his wings and went to the Bridge. Early this morning, he began having seizures, very similar to the ones that took him to the ER over Christmas.

The vets were unable to stop the seizures - even while completely anesthetized he was still having small focals, which would escalate into GM's whenever he'd wake up. We had to let him go.

I want to thank everyone who has read this site, who has bought paw print kits from REGAP or bid on one of the auctions, who has sent us emails to help, comfort, or just sympathize.

I never thought we'd lose the battle. It hurts so much more than I imagined it could.

Lucky is free now - the monster can't follow him anymore. He did go out with a victory - he broke all his records and made it 39 days, 18 hours.

Jun 1, 2006 - 4:57 pm
It has taken this long to sort through everything and be ready to post this. For that, I apologize, but somehow I think that no one really minded. Much of this was copied in emails that I sent out, so if you've seen it there, please bear with me!

I wanted to thank all the people that sent us emails (59 total!) and cards and called us to offer sympathy and sorrow. Some sent poems or stories of the Bridge - some simply said they were sorry and grieving with us. It's really amazing how much those little one-liners can do to help a person - joy is multiplied in sharing, while grief truly is divided.

I want to offer a special thanks to Cheryl Carroll and to REGAP of Illinois for all their support and help - I really think it would have been much harder without them. Mona sent us a little book called Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant. I cried - again - as I read it, but I have found that sometimes reading the poems and stories can help get me through the grief.

With Lucky gone, I don't think I will be keeping this blog going. I won't take it down, but there probably won't be much in the way of updates. If another epi-canine parent can get any kind of help or ideas or support or relief from reading anything that I wrote, then I will have done something good.

The primary thing to know is that, in spite of his epilepsy, Lucky was one of the sweetest dogs I knew. He was obnoxious, yes ... he was stubborn and hard-headed, yes. But he also adored my husband, tolerated my children, and played racetrack around my dining room table. I miss him, and always will ... but I am glad that he no longer has to suffer the seizures.

Sep 5, 2006 - 3:45 pm
First I want to thank those that left comments relating to the contents of this blog and to Lucky and his fight with epilepsy. I have not altered or removed any of those.

However, I have had to disable future comments and close commenting on the posts that already have them, due to the shameful practice of spammers. That's right, even blogs get it now.

In the past few weeks, I have deleted, banned, and reported over a dozen spam "comments" that had absolutely nothing to do with this site or Lucky. So I apologize now to anyone else who reads this blog and would like to comment but is unable to ... please feel free to email me instead - rjbaker1178 (at) gmail (dot) com.