Excerpt of "Living with Canine Epilepsy"

Chapter Two

And Then We Were Four

   We had arrived at our new home a few days prior when Ken, Lana and I, found ourselves at one of the local animal shelters in search for a brother or sister for Lana. We had brought our little girl with us because we wanted to ensure our newest family members’ temperament would be compatible with hers. We introduced her to quite a few dogs. In the end, it was a nameless, 8-week old pint-sized Golden Retriever puppy who stole our hearts with his magnetic personality!

    As part of the adoption process, we had to agree to have Darren neutered before he could leave the shelter; even at the tender age of eight weeks. In retrospect, it was certainly not a good idea. Research has shown a strong correlation between spaying/neutering at too early an age and future health problems. This includes hip dysplasia, urinary incontinence primarily in female dogs, delays in growth plate closure and stunted growth. Hindsight is always 20/20, and Darren’s fate would more than likely have entailed euthanasia if we wouldn’t have adopted him. What could we do?

    A week after we had signed the adoption papers it was time to bring the newest member of our family home. With Lana in tow, we drove to the animal shelter to pick up her little brother. He had recovered from the anesthesia nicely, and the incision site showed no signs of infection.

    We wrapped him up in a big bath towel and carefully placed him at the foot of my car seat; I wanted to make sure I could keep a close eye on him. We had driven for about ten minutes and before we realized what happened Darren had expelled his snack. At least he had good aim because all of the vomit ended up on the towel. We stopped to clean Darren’s mess before we drove on, and all the while we wondered why he had gotten sick. Was it due to the surgery earlier that day? Were the last minute vaccinations to blame? Or did he suffer from motion sickness? Anything sounded possible. In time we learned he did not suffer from motion sickness at all; in fact, he loved car rides.

   When we finally arrived at our house, it was already dinner time. After the dogs had devoured their meals, Darren sauntered on to explore his new home, carefully watched by his big sister. She didn’t look as if she had any objections to his urge to sight-see.

    The day we had arrived at our new home, the house flooded due to a plugged drainage pipe. Apparently one of the construction workers had “forgotten” to take out the rags that he had used to keep the drain clean during the construction phase. This oversight caused quite the disaster on move-in day. Copious amounts of water had found its way back up the pipes and out of the toilet, and flooded virtually every room on the first floor. As a result, most of the wall-to-wall carpeting, as well as the wood flooring by the front entrance had to be taken up, and large de-humidifiers and drying fans installed.

    None of this noise-making equipment seemed to bother little Darren. Under Lana’s watchful eyes, he was able to explore the entire house, followed by a short excursion into the outside world called a garden. When he eventually discovered his sister’s bedstead upstairs, he just crawled under the bed next to her, and both fell asleep, contend that everything was right with their world. Lana had finally found her cuddle buddy! I was truly amazed; this time around she had no qualms about sharing her home with a newcomer. Perhaps she sensed Darren wasn’t going to be a temporary house guest or maybe he gave off a different, calmer energy than her short-term pal “Bowser”. She was clearly not meant to be an only child, after all!

    Our initial period as a family of four was on the chaotic side. Darren was not potty-trained nor did he have any idea which behavior was acceptable and which wasn’t. His attention span seemed as limited as his bladder control. After the second day of controlled bedlam, we couldn’t help but wonder what we had gotten ourselves into. Fortunately Lana was always by his side, and gently guided him from here to there, which made leash training a cinch. He also learned from her to keep silent, unless barking was necessary to discourage any potential intruder from entering the premises without proper authorization. Darren took his silence to the next level and left the job of home protection entirely to his big sister. At this point, we began to doubt if he would ever grow up to become a serious watchdog. It was not part of his breed make-up. If I remember correctly we heard Darren bark a handful of times throughout his entire lifetime. It was quite a pity; his bark was deep and sounded frightening, despite his diminutive stature. Looks can be deceiving!