Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jordan Goes to Therapy (and the Beach)

Today, we went to therapy, and our wonderful therapist told us we could bring Jordan with us. She was fussy at first, but after about 15 minutes, she fell asleep. So here she is with her green blanket on the "therapy couch."

Interestingly, our therapist noted that Jordan did not look ill or fragile. It's true: if you see her and she's feeling okay, she seems fine. Her coat is super shiny since we've been cooking for her. She's alert. She walks and pants and smells stuff around her. Most people don't see what we do as her caretakers. She gets very agitated in the morning and at night—the times are pretty predictable. When she's in that state, she cries, she won't settle down, she is anxious and utterly inconsolable. We can take her outside, feed her, cuddle her, but nothing makes her feel better. We simply have to wait it out and eventually she settles down. It can take two or more hours. Before we changed her food and weaned her off her thyroid medication, it could go on for four hours. Twice a day. When she goes in the yard, about 90% of the time, she begins obsessively circling; the circles get smaller and smaller until she gets really dizzy and stops. Then she starts again. We have to carry her everywhere—a combination of her blindness and disorientation means she cannot navigate without running in to stuff—up and down stairs, from room to room, outside and back inside.

When she had her seizures back in 2008, they lasted for less than a minute each. She made this horrible screeching sound, her body went stiff, then she snapped out of it. When she had her seizure 2 weeks ago, it was entirely different. We were asleep, and her body began spasming. I woke up immediately. I knew. She lost consciousness and her body was jerking uncontrollably. Her mouth was open, then she started foaming at the mouth. I just stayed with her in bed, told her it was okay, and let it play out. It lasted for 7 minutes. When she came out of it, she was beside herself. She was freaked out. She started circling while standing in the bed, panting, crying. She did that for another 3 hours while I sat up with her. She finally fell asleep. It was really traumatic for all of us, and nothing like her other seizures. This was a grand mal seizure. The next morning, we immediately increased her phenobarbitol dosage, but we realized that even if the higher dose stopped the seizures, it would only be a temporary fix. Thankfully, she has not had an seizures since then. I pray every day that she doesn't have another one. I don't want to wait until she can't or won't eat, until she has another seizure, until she is in pain. That is what is on the horizon, and I don't want that for her.

Colten and I have talked before in therapy about Jordan's illness and the last stage of her life. Our therapist was really present today for us and didn't try to rationalize with us or calm us down or anything. I really appreciated it. I feel like Colten and I are on the same page about caring for Jordan until the end, and that is a blessing. We both feel good about what we are doing this week. Your comments on this blog and tweets and emails are AMAZING. Each one of them is a gift. I heard from one of my closest friends from high school (who I have not been in touch with in a million years) on Facebook today. It was so thoughtful and sweet. Because Jordan has travelled so much with us, she's met nearly everyone in our lives, and even people who don't like dogs (I'm looking at you, Ira) fall in love with her.

Of all three dogs, Jordan likes the water and swimming the most. It's so odd: she's a short-nosed breed that was never built for swimming, and yet, she loves it. Here's a video of her and Harley playing fetch at a beach in San Diego in 2005 - amazingly just a month after she lost her right eye. Her favorite toy is a slightly deflated soccer ball. Harley beats her to the first toss, which is shallow - but notice who dives in after the ball when it gets thrown out past where Harley's feet can touch, it's pretty amusing.

Jordan has always liked the beach, and one of my best memories is of the three of us at a beach in Santa Barbara. She wanted to play fetch with a bunch of big dogs (this is when she could still see). She dove into the water—the Pacific Ocean, people!—over and over. But one time the ball went really far. The golden retrievers and labs started swimming out for it, and Jordan just followed them. She got so far out, and suddenly a big wave came and crashed over her head. Colten and I panicked. Colten took off his shoes and socks and dove in the water after her, but there she was, dog paddling back to the shore. We haven't been to the beach since her last visit to CA a year ago, and we thought the weather this week was going to make it impossible. Our therapist told us about a nearby lake with a sandy beach, so we decided to go for it.

We had never been to this beach, which is part of a state park, so we admit we got a little lost! Finally, we arrived at Thompsons Lake in East Berne, and we were the only ones there. Jordan and I walked on the beach for a while. She eventually discovered the water and dipped her toes in. We walked around some more, then she headed back into the water. Soon, she was in deeper than she expected and couldn't figure out which way to get out. But she didn't panic, she just seemed confused. Jordan has always been fearless. It's inspiring. She's blind, she's in the water, and yet she still keeps going, still tries to figure it out. She's been like that her whole life—always unafraid, always looking forward, always optimistic. Well, we didn't want her to get too far out, so Colten rolled up his jeans, took off his shoes and socks and in he went to "rescue" her.

He swooped her up and we went back to the car where we rolled her up in a big towel to dry her off. we got in the car and turned the heat on, and she fell asleep on my lap.


  1. I'm in awe of how you guys are handling this, and how you've decided to make this week about Jordan. How well you're able to read her needs. This is part of being family (the kind of family we choose instead of inherit), and it's amazing. It's sounds like this sweet little dog has enjoyed a wonderful life, with great adventures and a loving family. Although I'm so sad for her, I'm happy for all she's had in you and C. Thinking of you guys.

  2. Endings are always hard. I've done too many. We had dogs since I was tiny, and bunnies after that. It's lovely to read of your own sensitivity to this; that caring and love really shines through.
    Please know many of us are thinking of you all - all - and when that time comes, I hope you know you can reach out to many people for love and support.


  3. Thank you for sharing all of this with me.... I'm hugging Teddy and thinking of you both.