A Quirky Pet Story for your enjoyment

(Warning, not all of this story is happy)

You all met Sammy a couple of weeks back, our newest family member.   I didn’t grow up with dogs, and though anyone can see that many people are very blessed by their four-legged friends, it didn’t “come natural” to me, but I didn’t want it to be that way for my kids, so we’ve had dogs.  We have never had any problem-pets, but we have had situations with pets that were not ideal.

Our very first pet experience was just about enough for me to never EVER try again, because it was a sweet orange tabby kitten that I got from a cat-loving friend, and we had only had him for a week or two, when one day I went to take my son to preschool, (my husband walked out with us to the car) and somehow the porch screen door did not close, at the same time, the door into the house apparently had not closed all the way either, so we didn’t even know the kitty had gotten out of the house, much less off the porch.  Anyway, after getting my son buckled in, I put the car in gear and started to drive off, when I felt the tire go over something….

I completely flipped out.  My husband had walked back toward the house, as I was pulling off, so I was still not aware the porch door had been open, and he realized it at about the time the car began to move, when he saw the car stop, and I saw the look on his face, I knew immediately, and just screamed, and I know I must have scared my baby half to death in the car, because my husband was running and shouting to stop me from looking as I was getting out, and I was already crying and it was just awful.  My baby was four, and we hadn’t had the kitty that long, so it wasn’t that traumatic for him, in the matter-of-fact way that a four-year-old does, he simply went around telling everyone for the next several days “mommy ran over my kitty”.  Oh. My. Gosh!  In family lore, it is not something I will ever live down.

Well, it was several years again before we got another pet.  The kids were a little older, and my husband really wanted a dog, so we adopted Skittles from the city shelter, a Cairn Terrier mix.  She was an adult dog when we got her, but not old. When we’d had her a while, as she aged, she started having a little trouble from time to time with her hips.  We then adopted a tuxedo kitten from the city shelter.  The tuxedo we named Rascal.  She was very playful and sweet, and she was for the boys, but like all pets, she chose her favorite, which turned out to be me.  She was very well behaved and smart.  She loved to lay beneath the Christmas tree and gaze up at the lights, but she never once tried to climb it, or knocked anything off.  I think she liked looking at her reflection in the shiny silver glass balls.  After she was about a year and one month old we learned about a Shih Tzu that was in need of a new home because his family no longer had anyone at home all during the day, and he was becoming bored and getting into some trouble or remaining crated for hours.  So we added Higgens-the Shih-Tzu to our menagerie.  He was extremely active, and sort of a handful for me, being the one who does stay home, and between his excitement over the cat (he loved her like she was his very own) and his trying to play with the dog (who was by then too old for such high-energy shenanigans) and for her first time ever, Skittles-the Cairn mix snarled and nipped.  Higgins was a total clown-dog.  When we first got him home, he wheezed like a freight train for so long we began to be concerned.  (They have those puggy-squashed up noses, you know, so when they get excited, and breath hard, it gets a little noisy).  He also could teleport!  The dog was as clumsy as they come, always running slam into things and tumbling, and between that and the wheezing, you’d think you’d never have trouble knowing where he is at any given time, and yet, you could leave him in one room, and walk into the other room and find him standing there waiting for you.  Now, with my hearing loss, that wouldn’t surprise me that he might sneak under my feet, somehow, from time to time when I didn’t realize he was coming along, but when it happened to my husband and the boys too, we just came to the conclusion he was teleporting.  He was a fun dog, and brought a lot of laughter and good memories for our family, but when the little doggie doodies started turning up on the carpet every morning, the Shih Tzu was the assumed culprit.  After all, Skittles had not had an accident in the house in years, and never a doodie.  Once again, we determined that something had to give, as this particular trio were not working out, and since Skit-dog had seniority, it was going to have to be the Shih Tzu.  Now before you get upset for the little fella please understand that Shih Tzus are notoriously personable and this Shih-Tzu in particular never met a stranger.  He loved everyone, and everyone loved him.  By this time the kids had sort of gotten over the cat, and she was pretty much “all mine”.  She and Skittles had brokered some sort of arrangement prior to Higgins arrival, wherein they each kept a wide berth and there was never so much as a hiss or a yap between them. But once the slobbery trouble-maker arrived, that was no longer the case.  And Skittles was becoming a nervous wreck.  She had been with us several years and had just started settling into retirement mode, not quite as active, and happy for a couple of naps a day.

When we told the boys we had to let the Shih Tzu go, because Skittles didn’t deserve to be tormented, they said “why can’t we just get rid of the cat, that’s not fair”.  I felt so guilty over their having to lose the Shih Tzu, that I agreed to let the cat go as well, but I prayed about it and I asked the Lord to show us the right family by having them want both, so they could at least remain together.   And in the end, they went to a mom who is a veterinarian, who had promised her daughters they could adopt another Shih-Tzu (since the dad had left them AND took their beloved pet with him) if they could find one that was over 2 and up to date on everything that wouldn’t cost a lot to adopt.  We had placed him with a very modest re-homing fee, and as it turned out, the mom had also been wanting a Tuxedo.  When the teen girl called about Higgins, she was so earnest and sincere and excited, as she told me the sad story about their dad leaving and also taking their dog, and I didn’t even yet know the mom was a vet.  As we concluded the lengthy call with her saying she would talk to her mom about when they could get together the fee, she said “I almost forgot, is the cat still available?”  I knew then, for certain they were the right ones.  It was the icing on the cake when I found out Mom was a veterinarian and they’d absolutely have the best care.  We even stayed in touch a while afterward and got the updates.

The doggie doodie incident happened again the day after Higgens left.  Just Skittles way of saying “a dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do, but I thought it only fair to fess up, and since I can’t speak…”.

Well, Skittles lived on with us, despite her little stunt, and the arthritis and spinal and hip problems progressed so badly that she was losing the ability to walk, and always in pain, and so sad.  She had chosen Garrett as her main person, and the two were really close.  When she started to decline, I thought it was a good idea to get a portrait of her with Garrett.  So glad that I did.  We lost her April 15, Tax day!  2011.  I had also painted her on a stone for Garrett, and both the photo and the stone are pleasant momentos that Garrett treasures now.

Garrett was not ready for another dog for a while, but the boys started asking pretty soon after.  It wasn’t until after the break-in at our home, that I was ready to consider the idea again myself.  By then Garrett was good and ready, and so we went to the SPCA adoption clinic at Pet Smart a couple of weeks ago, and now we have Sammy.  Which is what I originally set out to talk about in this post, lol.

A few days after we got Sammy, maybe even the second morning, Garrett and Isaac noticed him getting up, and seemingly having a lot of difficulty walking.  They described it to me as “staggering”.  It only lasted a few seconds, so my husband concluded that Sammy’s little legs sort of went to sleep, thinking perhaps he had lain in an awkward position for too long or something.  (He is long like a doxie and has the low-riding chassis sort of like one too, so I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to compress nerves).   I didn’t witness that first episode so I couldn’t speculate.  As many of my readers know, I am an RN who is retired from nursing due to several medical conditions, one of which is Narcolepsy with Cataplexy. (More info on these conditions can be found on this blog by searching by topic)

Well, yesterday Sammy seemed to be having a lazy day.  I was already sort of surprised by the fact that he seems quite content, when the more active members of the family leave for the day, to just settle in and nap while I am on the computer, or studying or reading, though if I’m up and about, he is too.  I had noticed he has “lazy days” from time to time, where he is not as active as normal.  But this morning, after having let him in from outside, he was his normal frisky self that he generally is after coming in from the chilly outdoors, but only for a few minutes, and then he hopped up on the couch onto his blanket, and settled in.  Then after about sixty seconds he started to get up, but he was struggling.  He didn’t seem to be able to get his feet under himself.  At first I thought it was a little comical, because the couch is pretty cushy and has a tendency to swallow a person up, much less a 19 pound dog.  But when he did get all four feet under, he just crumpled, so then I was concerned.  I went to the couch and gently lifted him down to the floor, onto his feet, but his legs didn’t hold him, he sort of just rolled to the side.  His eye that I could see, began to dilate, and he was unresponsive to my speech.  I wondered if he was getting ready to have a seizure. His big ole ear didn’t even twitch.  He wasn’t having any tremor at all, and he was breathing fine, but I shouted a little and shook him, and really no reaction.  That is when I realized he was exhibiting exactly what happens to me when I have a cataplexy attack.  Narcolepsy is not fully understood by most doctors, much less the average man on the street, in brief, it is auto-immune in nature, and caused when the brain stops producing orexin, and the “sleep apparatus” is completely dysfunctional, causing partial sleep-states to invade waking hours, and partially-awake states to disrupt sleep at night.  Not everyone who has narcolepsy experiences the cataplexy part, which is where just the body goes to sleep, like paralysis, but the person is totally conscious of all that is happening.  It can be pretty disconcerting when it is happening to you and you don’t know what it is.

I don’t know what it is about me that “a little off-kilter” can probably accurately characterize just about everything about me, my body, my life, and everything in it, but there it is!  The quintessential confirmation that the little furry pound-orphan has found his perfect home.  What are the odds I’d adopt a probably-narcoleptic dog, with a condition that even the SPCA didn’t know he had.  Only me!  I can hear my friends saying that now.

I know!  I can’t explain it, it’s just how it is.  I gotta laugh.  In fact, after he came out of it, that’s exactly what I did.  Then I texted my hubby, and emailed the friends at the SPCA.  God looks after his critters.  Both the two and four-legged variety.

Narcolepsy with Cataplexy is not a funny matter, and I am not making light of it.  It can range in severity in it’s effect upon the sufferers life, from a bothersome inconvenience, to extremely life-disruptive.  Cataplexy is almost exclusively limited to people with Narcolepsy, as a part or aspect of the Narcolepsy, however only a percentage of narcoleptics also have the cataplexy and there is a type of narcolepsy-with-cataplexy that is induced by sudden withdrawal from Serum (or selective) Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors such as Zoloft.  This kind is transient, and resolves within a few months, but the other kind is permanent and is believed to be due to an unexplained cessation of Orexin-production (also known as hypcretin) in the brain of those effected.  Very recent studies have now discovered that there actually is a form of Narcolepsy that exists in people without the aberration of the hypocreten pathway, and THE FLU SHOT has been linked to massive increase in narcolepsy cases.  (Just one of many reasons not to take it, in my opinion.)
Here is a video about a most severe case in a human:

And here is a video of the doggy version:

I can’t help but wonder if some of the same components in doggy “immunizations” aren’t responsible for the condition in dogs.  They just discovered it exists in dogs in the 90’s.

Hey, who says you can’t be quirky and entertaining, while also educational?