Brynn: The Everything Dog
How It Ended
The last two years with Brynn have been hard. Harder for us than I think they were for her in many ways. She developed a back issue that that severely limited her strength and coordination in the rear of her body. The initial fear was that this was a severe degenerative disease. Fortunately this turned out not to be the case. Around the same time she developed her onset of seizures. Again the initial fear was that it was a serious neurological process that would end her life such as a tumor or other mass in her brain causing the seizures. Fortunately we were able to get the seizures stabilized and it was felt that there was no imminent threat to her life due to the seizures.
However, there was a long time where we did not know what Brynn’s life was going to be like even in the very short term. And we really wanted to give her everything we had to give in what short time we might have left together. We specifically planned a vacation around her because we were afraid we would not have much time left with her and she always loved camping so much. We made sure she got one last camping trip.
Once, thanks to the amazing veterinarians that Brynn saw, we determined that neither the back issues or the seizures were serious threats to Brynn’s life in the short term we were able to settle into a routine with Brynn. Part of that routine centered around frequent visits to the vet for checkups and adjustments to medications and additions of new medications, but for the most part Brynn was stable. And that was what mattered the most. We established new routines around meal time that required significant preparation of medications for Brynn. As well as making sure we are around at specific times when she needs he medication in the evening and then again at bedtime. Brynn consumed countless packages of cheese during this time. And poor Colton is still standing by the fridge looking longingly like why don’t I get to have the cheese too.
Brynn never lost that spark through all of this. She never acted like she was losing a step or suffering in any way. And that made us so happy for her. Although it made it harder for us to have to set boundaries for her.
Brynn was our adventure dog. She loved walks, hikes, and other adventures. In her mind she was still the same dog that climbed mountains with us. She craved those adventures and would have went with us anywhere we went with as much gusto as she could dragging her toes and wobbling along with us until her feet were raw and bleeding if we didn’t restrict the amount of walking she was allowed to do at once. And we received the most amazing gift from a friend. She gave us a stroller that Brynn could ride in and we could push her with us on any walks in the park or adventures around town. I don’t think this was Brynn’s preferred method of adventuring but she wanted to simply go with us more than she wanted to be out walking, so she happily accepted the new conditions placed on her adventures as long as it meant she could be by our side.
We bought stairs for her to use to get on and off the furniture, which she used sometimes begrudgingly. One at her favorite chair and one at our bed. Because despite everything Brynn was determined to be with us. If we are on the couch she is on the couch. If we are in bed then she is in bed with us. Brynn sometimes comes to the couch to get up withus and we would remined her “Stairs” and she would just look at us stubbornly and we repeat “Stairs” then she would amble over to the stairs and slowly make her way up onto the couch. If she was being particularly stubborn or was somewhere there wasn’t stairs often we would have to help her get up onto the couch. She desperately wanted to be there with us even if she could not achieve it on her own.
These new physical impairments that Brynn was dealing with never slowed her down in the other activities she enjoyed. She relentlessly played with her young brother Colton the 100lb Bernese Mountain Dog to her 40 lb. Pit bull mix. She continued to chew and destroy and chase and fetch and otherwise constantly play with her various dog toys. Brynn even began to return to her way of digging up rocks and parading around the yard with them recently. She was still her own unique self. She was just a lot less graceful about everything. Wobbly and unstable on her hind legs. Accidents that never used to happen. And unexpected tumbles while playing, but she still had that fire for life.
The hardest part at least for us was the seizures. Thankfully with the guidance of our vet we were able to reduce the frequency to just about 1 occurrence a month. But they are just hard to watch. Sitting there holding your dog. Trying to comfort them just knowing that there is nothing you can actually do to make this any better. Not knowing if they can even hear you or feel your touch. Just trying to make sure they don’t injure themselves and hoping beyond hope that today is not the day that things progress to a truly daily level. We all made our way through life under these conditions. Mostly doing ok. Then there was the day that changed everything.
When Brynn has seizures they are always when she has fallen asleep. Often at night. On the rare occasions when she had 2 seizures in one day they would be separated by a good chunk of time and she has often gone back to sleep. This time it was clear something was different. Around 2:30 in the morning I woke up when Brynn began having a seizure. The first seizure was similar to most of her other episodes, if not actually shorter in duration. And Brynn always insists on getting up despite our efforts to try to keep her calm and laying down.
Brynn got up and was clearly very disoriented. This disorientation lasted much longer than it had ever lasted after her other seizures. It was hard to tell if she could even see. She was wondering around bumping into things and into places she normally does not. We followed her around the house trying to make sure she didn’t hurt herself. Then while still wondering aimlessly she sunk to the ground and began to have another seizure. The first time she had had a seizure while she was awake. The seizure did not last particularly long. And again Brynn was up and walking around trying to recover to no avail. We watched with concern.
Then she came to a rest on our bedroom floor and began to have what I could only describe as facial tics. Brynn seemed like she might be ok. It wasn’t clear that this was seizure activity, but the hope that she was recovering was soon extinguished. Brynn began to have several short seizures in quick succession. My wife called the vet and off we raced to Cornell to get treatment in the middle of the night.
I drove and my wife rode in the back holding Brynn. Poor Brynn continued to have short seizures one after the other with very little recovery time in the between during the entire drive to Cornell. It took us an hour to get her to Cornell Animal Hospital. They took her right in to their emergency department.
We waited anxiously for any news on Brynn. I paced almost non-stop for hours.
Eventually the veterinarian who was treating Brynn was able to meet with us. It was not great news. After being at the hospital for hours Brynn was still not seizure free. She was having more time between seizures than when we arrived but she was still having regular seizure activity. There were not many options. Keep her at the hospital where they would continue to try to stabilize her enough so she could go home or say good bye……..
This was not how I saw this going. We always knew there was a possibility that her seizures could require a trip to the vet while she was having them, but in my mind the sequence of events always revolved around getting to the vet and then they are able to administer a medication that will break the seizure activity in her brain and then she can come home with us. I didn’t think there was a possibility that they would not be able to stop the seizures.
The vet who cared for Brynn was so kind to us. But when you are talking to the vet and they lead off with kind words about how difficult a disease seizures are and how hard life with seizures is and talks candidly about how letting go might be the right thing to do I take that as a sign. I know that is not an option that veterinarians put on the table lightly. And having further discussions with the vet about how hard seizures are on the body and what Brynn’s body is going through during this and not really even having any assurance that the seizures can successfully be stopped and Brynn can return to regular activity. This made it pretty clear what the only humane choice was. What the only choice for Brynn was. It may have been a devastating choice for us but it was the right choice for Brynn. We couldn’t let Brynn stay in the hospital for at least 24 hours possibly continually having seizures in the hopes that maybe she would be able to come home with us eventually to who knows what kind of quality of life after her body and mind have been ravaged by this long term seizure activity.
We let her go to be in peace.
The Veterinary staff at Cornell was fantastic and treated us and Brynn with the utmost care and compassion.
How It Started
Brynn was our everything dog. She became synonymous with every part of our lives. Big adventures, Brynn was there. Relaxing on the couch, Brynn snuggling right next to you. Need to run some errands, Brynn will go too. It is hard to think of a part of our lives Brynn didn’t impact or interact with.
We met Brynn back in March of 2014. Brynn a dog newly available for adoption at our local SPCA. My wife an employee at the same SPCA. Me a volunteer working to photograph the dogs at the shelter who also photographed Brynn, then known as Zoey. In April of that same year Brynn was living with us. And by the summer she was going on her first adventure with us.
We quickly learned that Brynn loved to go camping. Brynn joined us camping in New Hampshire during the summer of the same year that we adopted her. She had so much fun. She was happy just playing at the campsite. Digging in the dirt, playing with rocks or sleeping on her dog bed. Brynn also went on hikes with us. She was such a fun dog to have along for hikes.
Brynn has gone on three camping trips with us. The first two were adventures. Hiking and climbing mountains. Enjoying all the sights and beautiful scenery and having our adventure pup along for the ride. Sitting in a park listening to a concert. So much fun. Her third camping trip came after she developed her health issues that really limited her mobility. So that camping trip really centered around enjoying spending time together with her in a different way. Sitting together at the campsite. Playing in small ways. Going to the lake for picnics. Driving around looking for easy to access waterfalls to explore. It was enjoyable in a different way than the other trips.
The amount of affection we receive from our dogs varies dramatically from individual dog to individual dog. Some people might like a dog that is extremely affectionate towards their human and some people might like a dog that is more aloof and more like a silent partner in life. We have shared our lives with a lot of dogs over the years. Brynn has been by far our dog who has shown outwardly the most amount of affection to us.
We had a dog that followed us from room to room, but didn’t necessarily interact with us all the time. She just wanted to be nearby and in our presence. And we have had a dog who mostly seems to not mind if we exist at all most of the time. He very often will go to a room and be alone most of the time. If we show up in the room he is in or sit too closely to where he is he gets up and leaves. He is a great dog and is very friendly too us he just doesn’t desire as close companionship with his humans. And we have had dogs all over the spectrum in amount of attention and affection they want and that they display.
Brynn was just in a category all alone. She was different than any other dog we have shared our lives with. Brynn wanted to be with us as much as possible. She wanted to engage with us at all times in every part of our lives. We have never had a dog like that.
From Brynn’s perspective every part of our lives was something she could take part in too. Nap on the couch, ok let me snuggle up in here too. Watching TV, I’ll sit next to you. Going out to the yard, oh yay I’ll come too. Let’s play fetch until I can’t stop panting. Taking a walk, ok I can go with you, where’s my leash. Need to run some errands, great I love car rides and I’ll ride along wherever we need to go.
Brynn loves car rides. Having a dog that just happily wanted to go with us wherever we went even if it was a mundane trip to pick up something we forgot at the grocery store made life just that much more enjoyable. Open the house door. Open the car door. Copilot hops in and is ready to roll. Simple as that. And then you have this happy joyful creature with you to share in your life and make errands more pleasant.
Due to Brynn’s love of car rides after she began to lose mobility we focused on taking her on trips that really centered on the car ride. We would even take her bird watching at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. She would ride around in the car with us as we watched birds and took photographs. She was so happy on these driving adventures.
And even in this strange time of the global pandemic Brynn found her place even more. As she was able to spend more and more time with us as we worked from home more. Lying at my feet at my desk or laying on the couch with my wife as she worked on her laptop. In this way being able to be home with her was a blessing as we didn’t know this was all coming to an end so soon.
I know there are a variety of feeling on dog kisses, but in our house dog kisses are the best. They are interpreted with the simple joy and exuberance they are often given, as a sign of affection. We are genuinely sad when our dogs don’t want to give us a kiss, we have dogs that just don’t do kisses, and happy when they lavish us with a good tongue lashing.
Brynn takes even this to the extreme. When she is really excited and wants to keep our attention she will lick and lick our faces. She never gets tired of making sure we wear the proper amount of Brynn slobber. At times she is just so excited to see us that she can be a little overwhelming with the kisses to the point you have to struggle to come up from air from the giant tongue plastering your face. If we didn’t eventually intervene she might lick us until our skin was raw, but she is definitely the dog who takes everything to the extreme.
Brynn had the tendency to take everything to the extreme. This really became clear with her obsession with rocks. Brynn began to dig up rocks from all over our yard. These rocks were her sacred possession. She did not want to give them up. If you convinced her to let go of one and took it from her and got rid of it she would look so sad. And to get rid of said rock you had to completely take it out of sight, because if you just tossed it away she would gladly go fetch that damn rock and bring it back. To get rid of the rocks we had to throw them in the pond and then once our yard was fenced in outside the fenced in area for the dogs. Then often the search for a new rock would begin.
Brynn would obsess over almost any rock. Sometimes small often way too big for her and to the size it didn’t seem like she should be able to even carry it, but somehow she did. She would carry these rocks around everywhere. Chew on them. Lick them obsessively. And try to fetch them if you threw them away. I developed a rock pile at the edge of our woods with all the rocks I have taken from her.
Brynn loves to play above all else and this fact continued until her last day despite all her health concerns. Brynn woiuld go nuts playing fetch. She loved it. She would not stop playing fetch ever given the choice. She would run and chase the ball until she literally dropped if it was up to her.
Playing fetch is serious business with Brynn. She would run full speed to the ball and return at full speed. Like she was trying to win the prize and the prize was more fetch please. After a few rounds of fetch she would be panting so hard that it was hard to believe she could keep going. You could see her chest cavity expand and contract with her heavy breathing from all the exertion. So eventually the human has to decide fetch is over for now. And then the sad puppy eyes would ensue.
When Brynn couldn’t convince her humans to play with her she would contentedly play with her many, many, way too many dog toys. By play with it often meant destroy within seconds or minutes. We quickly discovered which toys could at least stand up to her destroy first mentality and built up a small collection of those specific toys our bought them over and over after each one finally got worn out.
Brynn loved toys with handles or ropes or anything she could grab onto or a ball that fit perfectly in her mouth. She would run around endlessly with a given toy, she often would fixate on specific toys for long periods of time only playing with that one for days. Brynn runs through the house with her toys trying to convince us or one of the dogs to play. But not finding that will easily keep herself entertained with her own antics involving the toys. When she has a toy with a rope like appendage she will grab that end and swing the toy around and just whip it back and forth. Do not get close during this time as you will get clobbered. Sometimes as she is swinging her toy around she would hit herself in the head in a way that seemed impossible to not hurt, but it never slowed her down. These toys must be played with.
Brynn loves to play with other dogs. Either our dogs at home or new dog friends at the dog park. She will happily engage in games of chase at any time under any circumstances. Running around the park or our yard and even through the house. She does not care. Anytime is a good time for a game of chase.
When Brynn engages in play time with another dog up close and personal she is relentless. She really likes the rough and tumble style of play. Wrestling and mouthing and kicking each other. And she does not care about size either. For most of her life she has been one of the smallest dogs in our house and she takes the same role in play time with dogs her size or dogs twice her size or more.
Brynn even takes sleeping to the extreme. When it is time for bed she often has very specific rituals she will perform. She always sleeps in bed with us. Most often under the blankets and down at our feet, preferably between our legs. If she gets up or whoever she is sleeping with gets up these specific sleeping positions must be resumed once returning to bed.
Leaving An Empty Void
Brynn became a part of our lives at a very interesting point in time for us. Because of when we adopted her and the unfortunate short periods of time we had with some of our dogs Brynn’s time with us has overlapped with almost every other dog we have had. All except two of our first dogs we had and lost.
Our house has been so quiet without Brynn here. She is the catalyst for much of the activity in our house. She always kept everyone active. It was her spark and her energy that kept us all enjoying life.