Cian's battle with Canine Epilepsy ended October 6, 2019.
He was a shooting star that burned bright and hot but for far too short a time, and our hearts still ache with the loss.
We will continue to support Canine Epilepsy research in Cian's name by donating a portion of all product sales throughout the year.
Canine epilepsy can reach out and touch anyone, no matter how carefully a breeding is planned, no matter the precautions taken, it can, without warning, rear its ugly head. 30 years of loving, raising, and competing with Australian Shepherds and, although we were aware of the risks of canine epilepsy, it had never directly touched our lives until November 2018.
Cian chose me pretty much as soon as he was born. I told him he was too little to decide yet, but every time I went to visit him in those first few months, he told me the same thing. Who was I to argue?
Happy, athletic, intense, biddable… Cian was everything we had hoped he would be and we had great plans for the little guy. First, however, came the all-important task of just being a puppy, which he tackled with great gusto. It is how Cian approaches most things in life. Then, on an otherwise normal Friday afternoon in November of 2018 when Cian was not even a year and a half old, he had his first seizures. Being Cian, he met epilepsy the only way he knew how: full speed and giving it his all. After a weekend of cluster seizures, many trips to the vet, overnight stays in the ER, tests, more tests, and a consult with a neurologist, the diagnosis was confirmed, and Cian became a statistic.
That first month was hell. Watching Cian fight through the unrelenting clusters and then adjust to the anti-seizure drugs made us question, more than once, if saying our goodbyes would be the kindest thing we could do. He went through a zombie stage where he didn't know his name or us. He seemed afraid of everything, and the light that had always been in his eyes was gone. Our Cian was gone and it threatened to rip our hearts out. The gamut of emotions pounding us as we attempted to wrap our heads around what idiopathic epilepsy meant for all involved was a roller coaster ride I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Our sense of security was gone, and the dreams we had for Cian laid in shattered pieces all around. No matter how wicked the storm is, however, they all pass and this one was no different. We are surrounded by an amazing support group, and, like Cian, we're fighters. Little by little, Cian came back to us. Little by little we found our balance again. Normalcy of a sort, returned. Good days began, once again, to outnumber the bad and we tried to settle into our new routine.
There were set-backs. Another weekend of clusters, more time in the ER, added meds, the one-off seizures that became more frequent. Then he clustered again. Another trip to the ER, an influx of meds, but this time nothing seemed to work and, in the end, we had to make the most difficult decision of our lives.
Up until that day, Cian continued to play, love, learn, and work stock as he was bred to do. He truly lived in the moment and embraced the motto we borrowed from Maya Angelou: "My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive."
There is no cure for canine epilepsy. There is no genetic test for it. There is, however, continuing research which will someday, hopefully, help others.
If you would like to read more about Cian, our other dogs, and life on the farm visit our Shadowdance Aussies blog.