When Cubbie was a younger pug, I took him everywhere I went. He was my constant companion, a rotund, game-for-anything, kindhearted creature with an infectious grunt.
I took him to bars. I took him to restaurants. I took him to stores that were cool with dogs. I took him to ice cream shops that were cool with pugs. Each week for four years, I took him to the bank to make a deposit and get a bone. At the mere mention of the word bank, he’d pounce off the couch, run for the door and hop into the passenger seat of my car. It was our Monday morning ritual.
I took him to our wedding. I dressed him in a tuxedo and a top hat. I tied a little white pillow to his back and asked him to carry our rings. He obliged, as he obliges to most things most of the time.
I took him to the top of a mountain in Colorado and to the bottom of a valley in Idaho. I took him to Graceland. I took him to Chicago. I took him to the Oregon Coast and let him run without a leash into the Pacific Ocean, the memory of which is so fresh in my mind I can still smell the salt on his fur as I smuggled him past the front desk in a no-dogs-allowed hotel.
I can still see the wild look in his eyes when, after spending three weeks on the road, sleeping in a tent with me, I let him crash on a pillow in a queen-sized bed. King Cub.
In his eight and half years, Cubbie has embarked on more adventures than some people enjoy in a lifetime. Since he can’t express his gratitude for these experiences, I can only assume he’s a better pug for it. I’m certainly a better person for it.
Now here’s the part where I’m forced to have a reality check:
My pug, who turns nine in December, has been having seizures. At first they were MILD and very intermittent – one every few weeks. When I returned to Florida after spending two weeks in Buffalo with Henry, the episodes became more frequent and more serious.
Joe, who didn’t travel with us, did his best to manage the seizures while I was gone. I think he refrained from telling me how bad they’d gotten because he didn’t want to worry me. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize the gravity of the situation. My first night home, Cubbie fell over in the hallway, screaming, paws paddling in the air.
Other than some major slowing down and general laziness, which I had attributed to his age and recent neutering, Cubbie had been doing OK. Sure, he’s overweight, but we’ve been fighting that battle for years with a home cooked diet. And yeah, he’s got chronic ear infections, but isn’t that like no-big-deal on the dog wellness barometer?
The increase in seizure activity prompted us to run a blood test and urinalysis. The results came back normal. Good news, right?
In the midst of this, Cubbie, who was prescribed Cipro for an inner ear infection, had a seizure one morning that caused him to fall off our bed, convulsing and foaming at the mouth. Panicked, but trying to remain calm for the sake of the dog and Henry, we used an eye-rubbing technique that our vet said helps bring dogs out of a seizure. It worked … eventually, after he lost control of both his bowels and his bladder.
We phoned our vet, who is kind, affordable and empathetic. He advised us to take Cub off Cipro, which can cause convulsions in dogs with central nervous system disorders. He prescribed Phenobarbital. On Friday we gave him his first dose.
He’s not been the same since.
He sleeps all day. When he’s not sleeping, he’s teetering in a corner, panting or staggering around the house bumping into walls. His balance and coordination is totally shot. His vision sucks. His hearing is off. The only way to wake him is to pick him up slowly, set him GINGERLY on his feet and pray that he doesn’t tip over or have another seizure, which was what happened yesterday when I stirred him around 10 am.
I’m not sure what else we can do. When it comes to neurological disorders, an MRI is the most accurate test, but that kind of imaging can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000. And then what? Learn that our worst fears are true, that Cubbie has an inoperable brain tumor?
Perhaps an inner ear infection is to blame. Perhaps it’s spread to his brain. Or are chronic ear infections a symptom of a greater problem?
Am I being overly dramatic? He could have simply developed epilepsy. It happens.
He’s on a mild dose of Phenobarbital – 16 mg every 12 hours. Everything I’ve read online says he’ll adapt to the medication overtime and eventually snap out of this drug-induced stupor.
After spending five nights sleeping on a mattress on the floor, I’ve decided it’s time to return the bed to its box spring and make a soft spot for him on the floor. In eight and a half years Cubbie has never slept on the floor. He’s a bed pug. Moving him to the floor is a necessary precaution, but it’s heartbreaking given the circumstances.
I’m airing this news on the Lance because Cubbie is my first baby and a big part of my life. It would be stupid to pretend I’m not worried sick about the little sausage. I’ve got 25 soft spots in my heart and Cubbie occupies 10 of them.
Anyone who has ever loved an animal knows how difficult it is to see it suffer. Is the pug suffering? I don’t know. He’s certainly a shadow of his former fun-loving self, which is what I miss most of all right now.
He had a small seizure in the middle of writing this last sentence. He was asleep beside my desk when I heard him cry. I immediately recognized the twitching. I rubbed his eyes like the vet taught me and told him he’d be OK, then I reminded him that he’s a strong mountain-climbing pug with many more years under his folds. I kissed his head and quietly wished him well.