Chapter 1: The Trouble Begins
I awakened to a glorious day in late July of 2000 without a cloud in the sky. Cory, our yellow Labrador Retriever, was then 3 years old, and we were camping in southern Washington, in the shadow of the majestic Mt. Adams. To my delight, the lake was a sparkling emerald green; a detail we couldn’t tell the night before, as we had arrived after dark. Cory lifted his head and thumped his tail a few times, looking at me intently as if to say, “I’m ready when you are!”
Careful to get out of bed without waking Jay, who was still sleeping peacefully, Cory and I stepped outside to prepare for our morning walk. The pristine summer air in the cool morning breeze made me wonder if it was possible to feel any freer of the problems and worries that come with every day life in the city, which we left at home. I took a deep breath, tilted my head back and let the sun warm my face.
Camping is, without any doubt, Cory’s favorite activity, too. Eager to get the day started, Cory let out a little “woof” to snap me out of my early reveries and to remind me that I’d better get him fed before what was sure to be a big, fun day of swimming in the lake. I poured his kibble into his bowl, and opened a can of Alpo to make it tasty, trying to be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb my husband, Jay, or Jayson, our son, who was sleeping in a nearby tent. Cory gobbled it up and looked at me with dancing eyes, as if to urge me to drink my hot cocoa faster so he could go swimming. I gulped the rest of it down, grabbed the tennis ball and headed towards the lake with Cory bouncing like a dog on a pogo-stick beside me.
I threw the tennis ball for Cory into the lake to fetch for a good hour, and we returned to the motor home to find Jay and Jayson up for the day and getting ready for breakfast. Jay prepared breakfast and suggested that we all go out on the lake in our rubber Sevylor 6 person raft. I wanted to go, but there was something about Cory that gave me pause. I told them to go on and that I’d do the breakfast clean up. As I went about my chores, Cory started to appear worried and clingy. I had never seen him that way before. I was sitting in a lawn chair just outside our motor home with a book which I was trying to read, with Cory laying at my feet, but I couldn’t get into the book because I was becoming more and more aware that Cory was out of sorts. I wondered if Cory’s mood could be related to something in the water that made the color of the lake so emerald green? My internal alarm bells started ringing louder and louder as Cory’s discomfort increased.
Suddenly Cory looked into my eyes with an expression that was at once pleading and desperate. I watched in horror as his eyes rolled back into his head and he stood up on his hind legs. Before his body fell backwards to the ground I had my arms around him, to brace the fall. I had no idea what was going on. I screamed for help and kept my arms around Cory. His body convulsed violently to and fro. Thinking that he was having a heart attack, I did my best to apply CPR to his chest. I kept calling out and crying, and Cory’s body kept twisting and writhing, and finally our fellow campers started to circle around me, summoned by my screams for help. They saw me and Cory wrestling there in the dirt, me trying to give a seizing dog CPR. One person said that my dog was obviously very old and at the end of his life. Through tears and clenched teeth, as I held Cory’s body on the ground I said he had just turned 3 years old, 2 months before. The “uh oh squad”, which consisted of about 10 fellow campers, then offered up the collective opinion that Cory was having a seizure. I pleaded that someone go see if they could find my husband and son. Jay recalls that he was getting the raft and fishing poles ready to enter the lake when he heard someone calling his name. He paid no attention at first, thinking that the call was not intended for him. When he heard the words “your wife needs you because your dog is having a heart attack” he and Jayson bolted up the hill.
They found me still on the ground, holding Cory in my arms with tears streaming down my face. The seizing had ended, but Cory was laying in my lap unable to move a muscle. Jay picked Cory up and put him into the motor home. With no time to pack, we asked our camping neighbors to guard our belongings and we took off for the nearest town. I was actually somewhat heartened that someone had suggested Cory was having a seizure instead of a heart attack, because I knew that there were drugs available to manage seizures. I held Cory for the entire bumpy ride, praying that he would not die before we could get help. I could feel a slow heartbeat but Cory’s eyes were closed and his body seemed to be otherwise lifeless. Saliva drooled out of his mouth and drenched my hands, face and clothing and I wondered silently if he could choke on it. At times I could not even detect if he was still breathing.
With desperation and determination Jay drove our motor home way too fast down the 18 mile washboard logging road that led to the nearest town, about an hour’s drive from our camp ground. We did not care about the substantial damage which was done to our motor home on that drive; our only focus was on saving Cory’s life. From time to time Jay’s eyes would meet mine in the rear view mirror. Without speaking, we exchanged “is he still alive?” — “yes, just barely.” I could not bring myself to turn and look behind me at Jayson, who was absolutely silent.
Hi Sandy, I ordered “Cory’s Story” from your site on Thursday, received it in the mail today (thanks for the prompt shipping!) and I am already finished reading it. Lucky for me I had some free time because as soon as I opened the envelope all I wanted to do was read it! As an owner of an epi dog myself (Jack 3 1/2 year old Weimaraner), I felt you did an awesome job describing the emotional aspect of canine epilepsy, as well as the disease itself. The thing I loved the most though was that the book was about Cory’s life, not his disease, and it encourages me to live each day with Jack to the fullest. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, it was well written, entertaining, touching and informative (I love your website too). I think Cory would be so proud. – Kris S.