Seize the dog


Boomer has seizures. I first noticed them when, at age five, he suddenly appeared possessed. Daddy’s Special Buddy, my golden mutt, was having a heart attack, or about to see a little alien burst from his gut, like in the Sigourney Weaver movie.

To the vet, we went, my friend Linda driving, me in the backseat with Boomer, singing, “Nothing’s gonna harm you (Not While I’m Around)” from Sweeney Todd. His song.

A few hours—and one hefty vet bill—later, Boomer was back to normal, as if nothing had happened, as if Daddy hadn’t been traumatized out of his mind.

Boomer is now 13 years old, and over the last eight years, we’ve tried everything to diagnosis, dissect, determine and do away with his condition, and whether or not these “episodes” are even seizures at all. We’ve tried medication, changing to a raw food diet, getting zapped by some sort of chiropractic wand, as administered by an alternative medicine veterinarian.

Through it all, the seizures, or “episodes,” have come and gone and varied in severity. They’ve also brought out the scientist in me.

Whereas I’ve always considered myself a student of animal behavior (Sociology major at UCLA, go figure), Boomer’s condition forced me to become more of a physical scientist, observing my dog’s habits in an effort to determine any patterns or predictability surrounding his health challenge.

My preliminary results: the “episodes” have to do with a chemical glitch which occurs periodically in Boomer’s brain. His “wires” get crossed, or short circuited, as it were, and one side of his body becomes paralyzed.

What causes the short circuit? They occur most frequently after periods of overstimulating, such as plane flight and visit to granny’s house, or under-stimulation, such as a stretch of time without much activity.

What to do when the short circuit happens? After years of experimentation (holding him, massaging his ears, putting little holistic pills under his tongue during each episode), I’ve found the best way to re-wire Boomer’s brain correctly is to place little bites of his favorite treat, just far enough away from his mouth so that he must move towards the treat to get it (while being partially paralyzed). Once he tastes the treat, I place another one on the opposite side of his head, forcing him to move in the opposite direction to get that treat.

I repeat this over and over, each time placing the treat slightly farther away. While doing this, I talk to him in very excited and encouraging tones (“Get that treat! Good Boomer! Now get that treat!). After he’s successful in retrieving the treat, I shake the plastic treat jar (full of hard treats), making a loud sound he already associates with treats!

Eventually, Boomer’s up and walking, stumbling at first, all in the name of getting that treat. A short time later, it’s “what seizure/episode?” and Boomer’s back to normal, though a bit worn out and warm. Or is that just Daddy?

So far, after eight years of “episodes,” it’s the best way I know to un-seize the dog.