the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Our irreplaceable companion

My desk sits at the beginning of a long hallway that ends at the doorway to Dane’s room and then curves to the left a few feet to the entrance of a large storage room. When Dane returned from DC a few weeks ago I noticed that the small alcove to the side of his doorway was filled with sundry items—books, clothes, weights—he was still unpacking and returning to his closet, and wanted so very much to practice what it might be like for Leta to return home from a semester of college:

“The clothes in that corner owe me $10 a day in rent. $20 on the weekend, and if you even think about touching my salsa again I will take your bike and burn it in the fireplace.”

Please, don’t touch my fucking salsa. Seriously. Dent the front of my car or steal my favorite t-shirt or misplace my iPhone charger (LOOKING DIRECTLY AT YOU, TYRANT), and I will somehow work through those atrocities. But my salsa? There’s a certain episode of “Game of Thrones” where one guy takes the skull of this other guy and he crushes it to pieces in his hands and if you eat all my salsa I will plan exactly how to do the exact same thing with your entire My Little Pony collection. HAND TO GOD.

I’m a mom and that is important to this story because our intuition requires that we store extraneous data in our think holes in case that intuition ever needs to call upon that information for future decision making. It’s not something we have control over. It just happens, and unfortunately Leta will never be able to hide something important from me in her room because my intuition will have Jason Bourne-ed it three days before she tries.

(This has actually already happened, and when I busted her before she attempted it, she asked me how I could possibly know. I told her, “Because I’m a witch.”)

I was working on my computer when Chuck did his normal “I will walk down this hallway and sulk next to Dane’s room because life in this developed country, in this air-conditioned house where I am routinely fed and walked and cared for is extremely unfair” routine, something I caught in my periphery. I noticed only out of the side of my vision that he disappeared around the corner into that alcove. A few seconds later I heard a huge THUD. My first thought was, oh. He has knocked over something huge, something Dane hasn’t yet put back in his closet (see: extraneous data). Something very large-sized. Like a two-story building. Or a zeppelin.

Not even seconds later he backed up into view, his butt leading the way and he was jerking the entire time. Suddenly his body lurched against Dane’s door so hard that it sounded like he might have punctured it. The hallway was dim as the light was off, so I stood up to try to figure out what was going on. Dane appeared immediately in his doorway and snapped on the light.

“Chuck? Are you knocking at my door?” he asked playfully.

Here is where I will admit to being a total jerk: I thought, great. He has knocked something over in the dark and injured himself in the process. Jesus. Why does he have to go sulk in that dark alcove? He can sulk in the comfort of his own dog bed without injuring himself. Here, let me roll around in the dog bed with a frown on my face to demonstrate: it’s a little awkward as only my torso fits inside but… god… here’s a giant frown and look at my hair getting all tangled, but watch! I’m sad and here’s a whole blog post dedicated to how hard it is to be a white woman in America. All while written on the floor. Writhing. This is how you do it, dog.

I was contemplating what he might have knocked over when the light in the hallway began to illuminate one of the scariest things I have ever witnessed that dog do in his lifetime. I didn’t know if he had dislocated his font left leg as both of his back legs could barely remain standing. This sent him in a whirlwind of circles to his right side, his back legs trying to get footing but failing the entire time. He circled and circled, his body and head hitting the walls and slamming into doors along the hallway several times. Both Dane and I called his name over and over again, both of us on opposite sides of him. 

He never acknowledged either of us and seemed to be totally disoriented. He almost fell over a few times, his wobbly legs catching him each time, his front right leg bent at an awkward angle. The shape and bend of his body, the spasmodic way he turned and turned, it will all be an image that will now send my mind reeling at the slightest noise. Because he is 12 years old, and when he wouldn’t acknowledge us, as I watched him lose control of his limbs, all I could think was, “This is it.”

It is inevitable, the worst, I knew this when I adopted him 12 years ago on that April afternoon in Pasadena, California. And during the 25 seconds of that episode yesterday I thought the worst was happening right in front of me. I thought I was witnessing it, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. It was horrifying to watch.

The spasms finally stopped and he sat on his back legs as if he had been commanded to do so. I knelt down to inspect his face, to feel each leg in search of an injury and while doing so I snuck a nuzzle with my face on his forehead. I didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, and as he sat there I walked back to the alcove to see what he had knocked over to make such a loud thud. There was nothing there. Not a single thing. Obviously it was his body that had made the loud thud.

Dane walked him up and down the hallway, back and forth, while I ran to my computer to google “what does a dog having a seizure look like.” Several sites mentioned loss of limb control, jerking movements, disorientation, and non-responsiveness. I called the vet right then and they told me they’d see me right away. Chuck is one of their favorite patients, obviously, as he can balance smaller dogs on his head.


I will save the vet story for another post, it deserves it’s own space, but I know many of you care about this mutt just as much as I do. So: I’m waiting for the results of some blood work to determine whether or not he needs an MRI (they should be calling in the next few hours). He appears to be healthy and okay. We’ll know more soon.

The worst, for now, is saved again for a time unknown.


Thank you all for sending good thoughts our way. The cynical may scoff that you could become attached to a dog you do not know in real life, but I feel that you are as much a part of his family as I am.

  • TinaBelchersawkwardmoan

    2014/06/03 at 10:08 am

    Oh, Chuck, please be okay! If I’m not ready to let you go yet, I can’t imagine how your family feels!

  • Sarah Wilson

    2014/06/03 at 10:10 am

    ohmigosh – I hope he’s okay and never, ever, ever dies. I’m as attached to your two dogs as I am my own. Maybe even more so, because I only have to read about how annoying yours can be, while I have to live with mine. Stay healthy, Chuck!!

  • jeng123

    2014/06/03 at 10:20 am

    Sending you good vibes – we are going through the same exact situation with our 13-year old (part Labrador, part douchebag), Lucy. It is heartbreaking to watch.

  • Katie Sutton

    2014/06/03 at 10:22 am

    Be ok buddy. I teared up reading this. Would have scared me to death.

  • Karen Bernstein

    2014/06/03 at 10:25 am

    {{{{HUGS}}}} to you, Dane and Chuck. What a tough thing to experience for all of you. Hoping it was a freak occurence. Seizures sometimes appear out of nowhere, right?

  • Funfettiahoy

    2014/06/03 at 10:27 am

    We are all thinking the best of thoughts about the Senator! And for your family who is undoubtably far from ready to see this ol pup go.

  • elly_rarg

    2014/06/03 at 10:29 am

    Oh, Chuck! Happy thoughts, hey. The ‘this is it’ moment is almost too heartbreaking to comprehend. I’ve got my fingers crossed for good news!

  • Kate Funk

    2014/06/03 at 10:31 am

    my heart was in my throat reading this post – a family dog once exhibited these symptoms from lyme (and recovered after swift but intensive treatment). not sure if lyme is an issue in your area but the vet will surely know to look for it if so. sending so much love and peanut butter wishes to you both (though the pb is mostly for chuck).

  • gingela5

    2014/06/03 at 10:33 am

    My dog is on phenobarbital daily for seizures. It is extremely terrifying to watch them have seizures–hopefully it was just a one-off thing for him. Feel better Chuck!

  • nataliestone

    2014/06/03 at 10:34 am

    Oh, no! Poor Chuck. I hope you are able to get this figured out. Based on the symptoms, it sounds like vestibular disease/syndrome, almost. Our dogs had that and were able to take medication to help.

  • Amanda

    2014/06/03 at 10:38 am

    You have so many people wishing you well right now, Chuck. We love you. Please be ok.

  • housepea

    2014/06/03 at 10:41 am

    Sending good thoughts your way. We love you Chuck!

  • Jennifer Wilson

    2014/06/03 at 10:44 am

    I sat with my dog and stroked her head after she took a heart attack in my kitchen while I was putting my kids to bed. It took about a half hour but she died peacefully in my arms. Although scary and sad I was so happy to have been able to provide her comfort during her last moments. I’m sure Chuck was happy and comforted to have you by his side and I am so happy for you that he is still with your family and hopefully for a few more good years. *hugs*

  • malisams

    2014/06/03 at 10:46 am

    sigh. i hate when this stage of life finally rolls around with a pet, and “oh jesus, no, this is it” becomes the immediate thought when something funky starts going down. glad he seems to be alright. here’s hoping he’s got a lot more happy, healthy, head-balancing years ahead of him yet. <3

  • MomoFali

    2014/06/03 at 10:46 am

    Come on, Chuck. You got this! We are all rooting for you.

  • erin

    2014/06/03 at 10:48 am

    Get well soon, buddy. Love, one of your adoring internet aunties

  • s j c

    2014/06/03 at 10:48 am

    I just went through this with my own dog of advanced years. I was so scared and my dog was so confused, but we learned how to stay
    calm and get through them and now that she has the right dosage of
    medication, the seizures have ceased. I feel for you and know what you are going through. I hope he is able to get stabilized quickly with medications. good luck to you and to chuck.

  • Stephanie Brower Czosnek

    2014/06/03 at 10:49 am

    Reading this made me tear up. Dogs {so are cats} are family members – I don’t care what others may say – and to see a family member go through that is terrifying. I sure hope his bloodwork and everything comes back fine. Old man Chuck – quit the scary crap. Thinking of you all.

  • sarah

    2014/06/03 at 10:50 am

    “The cynical may scoff that you could become attached to a dog you do not know in real life…” The cynical part of me is desperately trying to surface long enough to make me feel ridiculous, but the human, dog-owner, and longtime reader part of me won out and now my eyes are teary. Sending as many good thoughts to you and Chuck as I can muster.

  • Valerie Aguilar

    2014/06/03 at 10:52 am

    Sending good thoughts to you and Chuck! I have a furry daughter who means the world to me and I know how scary it can be. Hang in there.

  • Tiffany J

    2014/06/03 at 10:54 am

    Praying this is a one time deal for your Chuck.
    If it’s any comfort, I have had a handful of grand mal seizures. They are generally much scarier for the people who see them happening than for those having the seizure. After the first few seconds, you lose consciousness, and are not aware of what is happening, which is a good thing. The next few days, however, are quite uncomfortable, because of the muscle spasms. It feels like you ran a marathon with every little part of your body (at least that’s what I would imagine a marathon feeling like!).
    A few pugs in our puggy group are on seizure control meds and do very well. Thinking of you all in this scary time. Hugs

  • Jennifer Wagner

    2014/06/03 at 10:59 am

    Thinking of Chuck and hoping for good results. We are a family with dogs that are as much of the family as our children.

    I can completely understand and empathize with your fear when watching chuck. Last summer our 7 year old baby (our first baby!) drowned in a log jam at our family’s cabin. He snuck (he could go into stealth mode, incredible) up above and jumped in. My husband, brother in law, and both sister in laws tried to save him, my sister in law doing CPR on him even. He didn’t make it. The most traumatic thing I have ever witnessed and probably the only time in my life I’ve been literally hysterical. It doesn’t really apply to the post, but I just wanted to share my empathy with your fear!

    Hugs to your family and hopes that you get answers with Chuck. <3

  • Kelly

    2014/06/03 at 11:03 am

    I used to read your blog daily, at the beginning, like when Leta was a baby, and since I’ve sort of fell off. The moment I saw a photo of Chuck and the word seizure on Facebook, I nearly cried. I hope everything works out and he continues to sulk for another few years. My small dog, Polarbear, had seizures and was on a daily pill given to him in treats. He lived to be about 12 with other issues (his heart was swelling). Seizures can be handled. I only hope it isn’t a sign of a more serious issue. Hugs to you and a belly rub to Chuckles.

  • Emily Everett

    2014/06/03 at 11:18 am

    This makes me want to go home and hug my dog. Sending you all the positive vibes. I feel like I’ve known you for several years, Chuck!

  • amypeck

    2014/06/03 at 11:27 am

    I have been reading your blog for the last 6 years, and I must say that you, your daughters, your friends, Chuck and Coco are very special to me. I was completely concerned when I saw your instagram posts, and am so relived that he came out of the seizure relatively unscathed. I am a mom of two furry girls myself, and even though I know their time on this earth is going to be short, I can’t imagine how I am going to feel when they get to the age of 12. We are all thinking about you and sending good vibes! Take care!

  • Rebecca B

    2014/06/03 at 11:32 am

    I’ve been following you since Leta was littler than Marlo, and I do feel such a connection to your Chuck. I lost my best-boy kitty a week and a half ago, and sometimes find myself totally hating the inevitable when I look at my best-boy dog, but somehow aware that no matter how much I hate the universe for not making their lifespans longer, I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to share this rock with them for whatever time we’re given. You are lucky that you know what a special dude Chuck is and I hope he’s got a lot of fighting years left; I’ve known dogs who developed epilepsy, and it didn’t necessarily affect their life span in any appreciable way. Thinking good thought for you guys.

  • Shawn Keehne

    2014/06/03 at 11:38 am

    I know it’s wrong – but I’m more attached to that dog than your kids. My wife and I went to a meet and greet once – right after we got married (the first time it was legal in CA) and you signed a photo for us of Chuck in his Halloween Witches Hat (since that’s our anniversary) It is framed and hanging in our bedroom. Our dogs look at it and sat WTF – but we explain that he’s their fairy dog father…

  • ali

    2014/06/03 at 11:42 am

    My Lhasa is 15 and a half. She is going strong without any issues but hearing loss. Due to her age though, she goes to the vet every three months just to check in. I spend each visit near tears because I fear each one will be the one.

    Muddog has been with through 5 of my husband’s deployments, two human babies usurping her place periodically, and 8 cross country moves. I can’t imagine my life without her.

    Thinking of you and your fur baby.

  • Rachael

    2014/06/03 at 11:42 am

    I burst into tears while reading this; I have been following your blog for close to ten years and Chuck is very much loved in my heart. I had a kitty for 16.5 years and this happened to him right at the end; reading this brought back all sorts of horrible memories. I really hope Chuck is going to be OK and there is some quality time left for him and whatever ails him will be manageable. You’re a great mom to that lovable mutt. Thank you for keeping us updated.

  • LizB

    2014/06/03 at 11:43 am

    The same thing happened to us in December, right after our beloved curmudgeonly corgi turned 14. Unfortunately for us, we did not have a happy ending as he never snapped out of it, and those moments where he was seizing was horrific. I am going to ask Angel Rufus to send good juju to The Former Congressman, and I am sending all of the hugs in the world to you.

  • Kristan

    2014/06/03 at 11:45 am

    Gah! I got so worried about Chuck that I’ll forgive you that GoT spoiler.

    Best wishes to the little guy, and to you and the family while y’all care for him. <3

  • MaryKC

    2014/06/03 at 11:48 am

    So sorry to hear that you guys had a scare with Chuck. We are sending all our good thoughts your way. Mary and the O Patrol (dog Otto and cat Olivia)

  • Breanne

    2014/06/03 at 11:53 am

    I’m definitely sending good thoughts your way! Feel better Chuck!

  • Ashley the Accidental Olympian

    2014/06/03 at 11:55 am

    CHUCK YOU BETTER HANG IN THERE MR. There are too many of us out here that love you and we’ll be just as sad as your family if you leave us.

  • laura

    2014/06/03 at 11:55 am

    I am no vet, but have been through this type of thing with my own dog. It sounds like he has developed epilepsy, which is a lot more common in dogs than I ever thought until I had a dog who lived with it for 7 1/2 years. Since Chuck is generally healthy, it’s likely they will not pinpoint a specific cause for the seizure… ergo an epilepsy diagnosis. There are lots and lots of options for treatment that can really help if that is the case. We used a combination of phenobarbital and potassium bromide with our 110-lb chocolate lab. Also, the vet will not necessarily prescribe anything until or unless it is established that he will continue having seizures on a regular basis.
    When my dog had his very first seizure, I thought the same thing you did… that I was witnessing the end. The seizures are scary to watch, but they get a lot less scary once you know what you’re dealing with.

  • Becky

    2014/06/03 at 12:00 pm

    hugs and prayers from Colorado

  • Michelle

    2014/06/03 at 12:01 pm

    Oh, Chuck. Hoping for the best possible outcome for you.

  • Stephanie Wilson

    2014/06/03 at 12:03 pm

    Thank you for that last paragraph. I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face, so upset about a pup that I don’t know in real life. I will think good thoughts for your sweet farter. May he continue to smell up your house while making you a hot dog.

  • Jadiol58

    2014/06/03 at 12:14 pm

    Chuck has been part of your blog as long as I’ve been following you, Heather. Please put heart cookies on his head for all of us to surround him in our love!

  • Lauren3

    2014/06/03 at 12:28 pm

    Love you Heather, love you Chuck.

  • Brea McInnes

    2014/06/03 at 12:35 pm

    I can hardly stand it. Thank you for keeping us in the loop. I adore or former Congressman Chuckles so very much. Sending all the love for a dog I’ve never met!

  • crash1212

    2014/06/03 at 12:36 pm

    My coworkers are wondering why I just teared up. Chuck is my favorite dog in the universe. Thanks for understanding that and sharing him with us. I hope he’ll be OK and the “worst” will be delayed for quite some time.

  • Julie

    2014/06/03 at 12:43 pm

    Sending lots of prayers and good thoughts to you and Chuck.

  • kmpinkel

    2014/06/03 at 12:47 pm

    Poor little dude! and you and Dane as well. You are right, Chuck and his fabulous posts are very important to many of us and share your angst. Hopefully he is treatable and whatever meds he is on, maybe they will help with his gas issue.

  • Dann Ryan

    2014/06/03 at 12:54 pm

    I swear it’s the thought of Chuck’s farts that’s making me tear up at my desk. Could not possibly be anything else. Please knock it off buddy and go back to your poetry.

  • lsaspacey

    2014/06/03 at 12:54 pm

    Actually, the best (and only good) thing aboutthis is that it was witnessed. It could have all happened in the basement and you wouldn’t have been aware to take him to the vet. So bless his love for Dane and you being right across from him. Take care, all of you. Get well Chuck!!!

  • Bookworm9798

    2014/06/03 at 12:58 pm

    Much love and affection enclosed in this comment for your flatulent furry little boy. He’s a good dog and reminds me so much of one of our family’s dogs — his doppelgänger. {{{{hugs}}}}

  • AwSniggity

    2014/06/03 at 1:01 pm

    Hoping for a clean bill of health and a fast recovery (of nerves, if nothing else). I know as a mom 🙂 of 4 fur babies myself what joy they can bring, unlike anything else, and at the same time how scary it can be when something goes wrong especially since they can’t tell you. Thank you so much for the update, I check in just about every day to see how everyone is doing. (Not a creeper, I swear….)I love hearing about your wonderful family, and thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Sending well wishes your way.

  • neekeem

    2014/06/03 at 1:07 pm

    Not cool, Chuck. Not cool at all. Have you not made some deal with the devil so you can be curmudgeonly until the end of time?! Please get better soon.

  • heather

    2014/06/03 at 1:18 pm

    Oh no. No no no no no NO no . Nothing bad to Chuck, ok? Not sure if our delicate psyches can handle it. Lots of healing thoughts your way.

1 2 3

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

read more