Bear's 7th Birthday
At the beginning of summer we had a big health scare with Bear and it terrified us. He had some type of neurological episode. He was periodically limping for about a day. Before I go on, anyone with a German Shepherd knows they have huge personalities, Bear is so emotional and expressive- sometimes I think it's because I’m his owner but truly it’s a hilarious quality of the GSD breed. He knows how to throw a temper tantrum, how to fake things for attention and intentionally guilt trips us anytime we appear to be getting ready to go anywhere outside of the house without him. We weren't sure if this was another one of Bear’s attempts to manipulate our emotions or if he legitimately was hurt. He would limp off and on, more so when I spoke in a baby voice or when I was clearly watching him and other times he was running around after squirrels, totally unbothered. The limping seemed to get worse when I was getting ready to leave which made me suspicious of Bear’s symptoms. I was home from a weekend of training at the studio and was watching Bear run around the yard, I took my phone camera out (cause obviously) and filmed Bear to show Paul that he was running fine. Then suddenly, Bear turned to run towards me and his entire right side was limping, his ear and face were drooping and I knew immediately something was definitely wrong. I yelled for Paul to come to us and we called Bear’s vet. It was after hours so we reached our vets emergency line and met him immediately for an emergency visit.
The vet praised me for capturing that video, he said it was invaluable. Upon examination the vet was throwing around words like “brain tumor” “stroke”, then the vet asked us if we were familiar with migraines and said Bear might have migraine. He said this also explained why Bear was shaking his head and digging his head into the ground.
So, I immediately heard nothing else and started to sob uncontrollably. You can probably imagine what was going through my mind... Maybe not – “This is all my fault, oh my God he literally soaks up my pain to take it away, my migraine buddy thru and thru, he's always laying on my head and licking my tears away, he just knows. I can’t believe I thought he was faking his pain for attention…” I was beside myself.
The vet started Bear on a steroid (one that I had actually been prescribed to break a migraine cycle in years prior) and then said we would monitor Bear and go from there. He warned us that we would probably need further testing that would end up being thousands of dollars and would have a low accuracy, he told us to think on it before we decided anything. Things were not looking good at all, Paul and I were very overwhelmed and upset but were prepared to do whatever for Bear. Meanwhile, Bear was acting like himself and seemed just fine.
I spent time looking up sympathy pain and migraine in dogs, after this whole thing with Bear and it does appear to be real and well documented in pets. It really got me thinking about my energy and energies that I absorb or drain from others. Thinking in this way certainly gave me plenty of reasons to resolve my focus on the power of positive thoughts and energy, in hopes that Bear would feed off that positivity rather than whatever emotional support he was trying to lend me in my observed suffering. Bear, the automatic empath- like owner like dog? It’s no surprise Bear is complicated then. Through our training with Bear, it was made pretty clear that his behavioral issues are just a mirror to our own issues. A lot like children (which I realize sounds crazy), learned behavior is exhibited. What your pet sees you do, they learn to do. Which is why working with animals or children can be so frustrating, it’s in many ways us against our own flaws and insecurities. Bear is clearly receptive to our mood, so I have learned to notice his behavior and instead of reacting or disciplining him, I regulate myself which in turn calms Bear. When I feel safe, cared for and happy; Bear usually reflects that. He’s like an unofficial therapy dog, “dog medicine” as I like to say!
A few days following Bear’s episode we took him to Florida, watched him very closely, let him run on the beach, in the ocean and loved every second of our time. By some miracle, Bear has been fine since the day this all happened. The steroids seemed to be effective after one round and we haven’t needed to see the vet for any emergencies since then (knock on wood). Actually his health seems to have really improved overall. I talk about this in my blog about his raw foo diet. Paul and I were prepared to do whatever we needed to for Bear, he has always been a top priority but we became new level crazy dog parents after this whole ordeal. It was another reminder to focus on what brings us happiness and joy rather than the uncertainty and fear that comes with life with chronic illness - and really just life in general. It’s a priority to focus on giving back to our main source of smiles - Bear!
Of course, we celebrated big for Bear’s 7th Birthday! He had a KC Strip Steak for dinner, because he’s on a raw food diet! Then we had his cake with friends over the weekend. We assumed that at 7, Bear was trained enough not to eat the pretty serving paper the cake sits on but - no such luck. Never assume. That’s another lesson Bear teaches us. I truly can’t believe that we’ve celebrated Bear’s Birthday for 7 years already, what a joy to share in. I wake up every day with this big Bear on top of me snoring or licking my face and I feel immensely grateful for his loyalty and love.
The Bear decorations are from Pink Antler Studio, in Park Place and his cake is from Three Dogs Bakery. We get this cake for him every year now, it’s become a little tradition! I linked all the Bear decorations from Meri Meri on my LikeToKnowIT Profile, cause I know you’re dying to get in on the Bear par-tay!