In memory of Gwen
Losing a dog is always hard, but it becomes twice as hard if it is unexpected. Saying goodbye when you can't do it properly; a life that is suddenly taken away from your powerless hands.
Shortly after both her epileptic fits I have sent an e-mail to several people. The content speaks for itself; it will probably the best words for an article like this...
June, 8th 2000
My Blue Merle bitch Gwen (our own breeding) was almost a week in heat and would be mated. I planned to keep a pup from this litter to gradually build my own line. Yesterday afternoon we picked up the dog that would mate her, but Gwen was not ready yet. We decided to let the dog stay with us and to try it again today.
Everything turned out so differently, last night around two o'clock I heard a strange noise from outside. The noise repeated itself every five minutes or so and sounded like a pup being killed, a very faint but squeaky cry. After the fifth time I woke my boyfriend and he also heard the sound. I decided to check my dogs, just in case, but I was sure that it was not coming from one of my dogs. Swift was sleeping on our bed, Blue and the stud dog were each in their own crate and they were fine. So I went outside and found three very happy black and white Border Collies wagging at me; Gwen was missing. I called her a few times, but there was no reaction. I did hear a very heavy breathing coming from inside the barn. I ran back in the house, picked up my keys, unlocked the barn and there she was, lying in convulsions. I knew it right away: an epileptic fit. I picked her up, brought her inside and laid her on the bed where she had another few fits. After the fourth fit I phoned the vet and we could come immediately. At the vets she had another fit and after that she received a large dose of valium to stop the fits. The fits lasted for only about thirty seconds each and then she would regain consciousness for approximately five minutes. After that it started all over. She slept the rest of the night (because of the valium of course) and today she was very absent-minded all day long. Since tonight she is her old self again and there seems to be no problem at all.
Gwen is almost two years old and she has never had a fit before. Why did it start? If only I would know. But even the Wise Men of the university clinic and the W.K. Hirschfeld foundation (which researches hereditary diseases) don't know if and how it is inherited, why she got it, etc.
You'll understand that I canceled the mating immediately. We brought the dog back to his home and informed the Breeding Advisory Committee of the Dutch Border Collie Club. I told them the whole story, gave them the stud-book number of her and informed them that I would withdraw Gwen from the breeding stock and have her neutered as soon as possible.
My dream is broken, over and out. I chose these two pups because they were better than their mother and I wanted to use this as a base to continue from. Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be.
What the future will bring to Gwen I don't know. Just a matter of wait and see. If and when she will have another fit, it can be tomorrow, in a couple of months, a few years or maybe never again. Until then I can only help her by loving her with all my heart.
6 november 2000
Monday evening at around 18.00h I came home from shopping. Less than fifteen minutes later I heard a loud scream from the kennel outside. I ran outside and saw Gwen lying on the ground; she had another fit. I picked her up and brought her inside, called the vet and drove to his clinic.
In the car she had a second fit and at the vets she had her third. She immediately received a dose of valium, which was sufficient the previous time to stop her fits. Just to be on the safe side the vet gave a few suppositories with valium to take home. That evening around 23.00h she got another fit. We gave her valium and went back to the vet.
The next morning she was very much awake and we thought we had won another battle, but at eleven o'clock she had another fit, valium again, at 12.30h another fit, valium again. At 15.00 another fit followed and the vet turns to phenobarbital because the valium didn't have the desired effect. This phenobarbital should cause her to be in some kind of coma for the next 24 to 48 hours. After that she would be on medication for the rest of her life. If that means we could safe her....
Around nine o'clock that evening she is awake again and gets another fit. Another trip to the vet, but we've already made up our mind. She gets another shot of phenobarbital, but her eyes keep circling, her legs are stiff and when you squeeze her hind leg her front legs move also. So, despite the high dose of medication her brain remains active and she can't find the peace she needs so badly at this moment.
This was a battle she couldn't win and we had to take the horrible decision to give up. But God, that was hard. First an epileptic fit right before a mating, which makes you realize that the dream of breeding her is over. After that you realize that she's still there and she could live a happy life. Five months without fits, no problems, she was neutered, just got her third 'Excelent' mark in agility (enough to be promoted to the next class). Last Sunday she ran a very good round on an agility show and two days later she isn't there anymore. With pain in my heart I look at her mother and her brother, whom she resembled so much, who remind me of her; memories that are so precious to me.
Dear 'beng beng' (her nick name), my little bitch, I know you have finally found the peace you could find in the last 24 hours. I know you're with my dear Tjarda and I hope the two of you have a wonderful time. You know how much I loved you, you were my doggy, my dream, my hope for the future, my everything. I can't and won't ever forget you. You'll live on in your brother Blue and your mother Spottie, and you will always be in my heart, my soul and my mind.
Bye dear Beng Beng, 'til we meet again.......
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