Heater, Mother of Lance

The best place on earth

Monday afternoon just minutes after Chuck’s unexpected seizure I walked him into the laundry room where I keep all the canine paraphernalia: food, FURminator, various treats, leashes, and black eyeliner. Chuck may not be considered one of those “smart dogs” who could herd a field of sheep into a tiny pen, but he pays very close attention to little details. He noticed that I had removed only his leash from the cabinet and immediately altered the jet stream with the wind produced from his wagging tail.

He knew this meant we’d be heading to the vet, his favorite place on earth. I have very rarely taken both dogs to the vet at the same time because they have such conflicting feelings about that institution. When I have done so I usually end up stuck in the parking lot, Chuck pulling me toward the door, Coco yanking me in the opposite direction to the nearest cliff from which she can fling her body.

Chuck is normally mild mannered and well behaved, and people who are unfamiliar with the names of my dogs often refer to him as “the one who isn’t crazy.” I find this funny because I guess it depends on your definition of crazy. Chuck has been known to sit perfectly still in the living room staring at guests in such a creepy way that they will comment that they feel uncomfortable, like he’s stealing their soul or plotting their imminent death. Coco’s trainer once watched the two of them for a few days, and when she returned them she was shaking her head heavily.

“That ain’t no dog,” she said pointing to Chuck. “That there animal stared at me for two hours straight and I didn’t feel safe going to sleep that night.”

When I got within a few blocks of the vet, Chuck began whimpering in the back of the car. Not because he was scared or anxious, but because HE COULD NOT WAIT! If I had stopped the car right there he would have jumped out and run the rest of the way. I was worried that he was showing so much excitement in such close proximity to experiencing a seizure, but I had no idea what to do. He and I are so much alike that I suppose I could have told him we were instead headed to Disneyland and watched as his grin quickly morphed into a frown. ANYWHERE BUT THERE.

By the time I parked the car he was screeching with excitement, and when I opened the door he bolted out so quickly I almost didn’t have time to grab the end of his leash. He dragged me to the front door and hopped up on the the glass with both paws. I spent several minutes wrangling him, attempting to get him to calm down and obey orders before entering the building. It was embarrassing how flagrantly he was ignoring me considering how many episodes of “The Dog Whisperer” I have watched. And the Cesar Milan poster I have hanging over my bed. Fine, IN my bed.

Chuck acted exactly like a bucking bronco the entire time I checked in, the whole time the technician tried to assess his weight. The vet is basically a car wash but instead of water, dog treats rain down from the ceiling. This is at the core of why he loves it so much, but he could at least act his age and receive a treat with the tiniest bit of civility and not try to eat the hand of the technician holding it. What, he’s 84 in human years? Is that right? Imagine an 84-year-old man wearing a Sex Pistols t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off trying to get away with riding a skateboard through a library.

It was a slow day, apparently, because they walked us back to an examination room right away. The nurse gave him treats immediately, and if only you could have witnessed the sound of that dog’s tail swatting the door and and walls and floor: THUNK THUNK THUNK THUNK. It didn’t stop. It wouldn’t stop. As the nurse walked over to grab a thermometer, the kind you stick up a butt, she said, “Oh, look at that tail. I know you think this is a cookie, but this is certainly not a cookie!”

She knelt down and had to navigate around Chuck’s windmilling tail to insert the device, and I swear to god the look on his face was a gleeful, “LOOK! I HAVE A THERMOMETER IN MY BUTT!”

Like, it made his whole day. It was the best thing to happen to him in months. A thermometer. In his butt. The grin on his face upon having a thermometer thrust into his butt made me think, “I didn’t think the Internet could love this dog more than it already does BUT OH I AM SO WRONG.”

The vet had already entered the room, and after I described what I had witnessed she did a thorough physical examination of all his limbs, his face, his mouth. She tested both eyes extensively and noticed his left eye was a little cloudier than normal, a possible side effect from the whole episode. I know my eyes get cloudy when I stick things up my butt.



She talked about possibilities: could be his liver, possible toxicity. Had he gotten into any medication? Eaten plants he shouldn’t be eating? She didn’t think it was epilepsy. Could be something neurological. Could quite possibly be a one-time incident. She’d take him back to draw some blood, test for several scenarios, and then we’d go from there. While waiting for the results I should take him home and watch for the following signs of a worsening neurological condition:


Do you see number six? When I got home and showed this to both Dane and Tyrant we all burst into simultaneous laughter. His reaction to the vet is a total anomaly. Chuck doesn’t get excited about anything. A bomb could go off right beside his head and he would loudly pronounce in English, “Unimpressed.”

Is “condescending asshole” the sign of a worsening neurological condition?

I kept a very close eye on him all day, and I was right when I said that any loud or unexpected noise sent my mind reeling. Leta moved a stool in the kitchen and I came running thinking he was having another seizure. Every thud, bump, squeak… every noise made me panic. I can’t thank the Internet enough for sending me stories and tiny snippets of encouragement. So many stories of dogs experiencing seizures and having positive, manageable outcomes. Some had sad stories to tell but found hope that Chuck would be okay.

Midway through the day on Tuesday the vet called to say that the blood work could not look better. They had run several tests that they had not run on previous blood work six months ago, and if she were looking at it blindly she’d say it was from a dog half his age. Nothing abnormal to see. Steps from here: keep a close eye on him. If it happens again we can circle back and decide on a plan.

And so that’s what we’re doing. Even Marlo is giving him extra hugs and telling him not to “bang into the walls anymore.”

I am just like everyone else who gets caught up in the tedious minutia of everyday life forgetting to stop and offer gratitude for the fleeting time we have on this planet with the ones we love. It’s a shame that it often requires something like this to remind us to do so, to force us to remember that it could all be gone in an unexpected and tragic instant. That Chuck has been spared a bad diagnosis is his gift to all of us.

  • Karen Walrond

    2014/06/05 at 2:42 pm

    A few years ago, our dog Rufus came wobbling in from outside, and collapsed. He was incredibly cold, so I picked him up, yelled at my daughter, “We’re going to the vet!” and rushed to the car.

    The vet checked him out, noticed he was cold but nothing else, and said just to be safe he would put an IV with fluids in him. I was to come back later to pick him up, take him home overnight, and then bring him back to be checked out again in the morning.

    The next morning, Rufus was FINE. Like nothing had ever happened. I looked at the vet in wonderment, and he shrugged and said, “Who knows? He probably just licked a frog, or something.”

    Here’s hoping that Chuck just licked a frog. Glad he’s okay.


    (P.S. Notice how it always comes back to Frog Fever? JUST SAYIN’.)

  • Amanda

    2014/06/05 at 2:47 pm

    Oh I love him. And I’m so glad he’s okay.

  • Marie McDowell

    2014/06/05 at 2:47 pm

    Oh crap, I’m crying for joy for your dog, that lives a few thousand miles away and wishing I could leave work right now and give my dog a hug. Pets sure have a wonderful role in our families, don’t they? So happy Chuck is doing better and all looks ok. 🙂

  • Katie Sutton

    2014/06/05 at 2:49 pm

    Damn onion chopping ninjas.

  • Marleah Dolson

    2014/06/05 at 2:53 pm

    So, so happy that Chuck is okay. Tears of relief for you all. Good boy, Chuck!!

  • Caitlin

    2014/06/05 at 2:53 pm

    My 13 year old beagle had surgery last week to have a lump removed from her side because we thought it was cancer. I found out today that it wasn’t, that she’s perfectly healthy and she’s still got some time left. I know exactly how you feel. I am really happy for you.

  • Jen Moore

    2014/06/05 at 3:07 pm

    yay great news! what a relief xo

  • kmpinkel

    2014/06/05 at 3:09 pm

    Yay Chuckles! His farts might even smell a little bit sweeter!

  • Susan

    2014/06/05 at 3:13 pm

    I love Chuck; it was he who showed me how to fall in love with my own dogs. Thank goodness he’s okay. I

  • sunnygirlsf

    2014/06/05 at 3:14 pm

    super happy Chuck is alright. I couldn’t wait to hear the story from the vet’s visit. along with many others, chuck is one dog that means a lot to me and I’ve never met him in person! again, so glad he’s okay and that he has you as his owner. 🙂

  • Richard Morey

    2014/06/05 at 3:14 pm

    So happy Chuck is okay! I mostly read your blog for stories about Chuck and Coco and wish I could post comments on the photos you post of them. Our dog is much more like Coco so I have double affection for Chuck and how mellow he is.

  • Julieme Wood

    2014/06/05 at 3:18 pm

    Ummmm….. may I suggest “I know you think this is a cookie, but this is certainly not a cookie!” For next months tagline, header, message at the top of your website thingy?

  • Jamie

    2014/06/05 at 3:46 pm

    Yeah for great bloodwork! I have to say that I cried when I read your previous post regarding his seizure and I also cried during this one (happy tears this time)! Excuse me while I go hug my crazy border collie named Homunculous (shortened to Munk-ey which totally confuses the kid when we get to the primate building at the zoo).

  • Jeanie

    2014/06/05 at 4:05 pm

    Great to hear that Chuck is doing well. I’m glad you get more time with your wonderful dog.

  • KathyRo

    2014/06/05 at 4:23 pm

    And his farts. They’re his gifts too.

  • MJB

    2014/06/05 at 5:02 pm

    So glad he is ok.

  • Melanie

    2014/06/05 at 5:07 pm

    My mom’s dog had a seizure once years ago, and it never happened again (unless I’m jinxing myself right this second). Point is, it really could be a one-time thing.

  • Annie

    2014/06/05 at 5:52 pm

    Hurrah! So relieved! I think I’ll definitely be purchasing a Chuckles calendar (finally) next year, with this newfound awareness of his mortality and all D; long live the former Senator!

  • davanita

    2014/06/05 at 6:41 pm

    Yay Chuck! Here’s to more farts! (sorry Heather)

  • patches23

    2014/06/05 at 6:56 pm

    Marlo reminds me of a future Wavy Gravy. When he founded the Seva foundation many years ago to fund eye surgeries to help prevent blindness in the third world, he said “the goal is to keep people from bumping into shit.”

    I’m glad Chuck is feeling better. Much love to him and your family.

  • Beachstereo

    2014/06/05 at 8:10 pm

    Yay!!! I’m so happy to read this.

  • BeckyCochrane

    2014/06/05 at 8:36 pm

    Great news for Chuck! So glad.

  • Denise Webber

    2014/06/05 at 8:44 pm

    Oh I am so so glad that Congressman Chuckles is OK.

  • schmutzie

    2014/06/05 at 11:41 pm

    As someone who recently revived her seemingly dead cat by sticking a finger deep into his ear, I know the fear. I’m so glad Chuck is looking like he’s okay! Pets shouldn’t be allowed to freak us out this much.

  • dc

    2014/06/06 at 1:55 am

    i lost it on the last paragraph

  • Kate Funk

    2014/06/06 at 8:25 am

    “certainly not a cookie” has a lovely ring to it – good call!

  • Kate Funk

    2014/06/06 at 8:29 am

    you and chuck are so lucky to have one another – i’m so glad to hear the prognosis is looking good.

  • Katybeth

    2014/06/06 at 8:42 am

    Good News! I bet it was a one time thing (My Lada had two seizures, the end). I hate it when people tell me to take a deep breath so I’ll just suggest giving Chuck a cookie whenever you feel anxious. :-D.

  • KristenfromMA

    2014/06/06 at 9:08 am

    Yay Chuck! <3

  • gwen

    2014/06/06 at 9:23 am

    So, so, so glad he is OK. A good friend’s dog has a seizure disorder — which was scary during the diagnostic process — but now that it’s controlled by medication, he is perfectly 100% fine and living a totally normal life. Long live Congressman Chuckles!

  • Alan Stubbindeck

    2014/06/06 at 10:04 am

    Chuck and Coco are the Internet’s dogs…I actually jumped a little when I saw what this post was about. Glad things are looking good!

  • Michael Mathews

    2014/06/06 at 10:33 am

    I dunno – thermometer up the butt works, too.

  • Michael Mathews

    2014/06/06 at 10:35 am

    Yay! I am happy all the news has been good. I just love that he loves to go to the vet. I have never had a pet that enjoyed that.

  • Torchness

    2014/06/06 at 11:10 am

    This is why I avoid people who are not “dog people”. Dogs are the best.

  • Carin Sweerman

    2014/06/06 at 1:23 pm

    Yea, Chuck. Very happy to read all seems well – keepin’ mah fingas crossed that it was a one-time thing!

  • MazMonroe

    2014/06/06 at 4:34 pm

    I love Chuck!!! I’m so glad that it seems to have been a ‘one-off’. Human beings can have those episodes too, as very scarily demonstrated by a friend of mine. (She remembered nothing of it, thank goodness.) I love Coco too!!! (P.S. The vet spelled persistent wrong, in #3.)

  • Heidi

    2014/06/06 at 7:18 pm

    I bet Chuck’s going to will himself to live to be an insanely old age, if only to continue to give you all the farts ever until the end of time.

  • carly

    2014/06/06 at 9:39 pm

    oh my goodness, heather. i am so beyond glad that he is ok xoxoxox hugs for everyone, farts optional

  • xuenhxoang

    2014/06/06 at 9:45 pm

    I love him. SO kute.

  • xuenhxoang

    2014/06/06 at 9:48 pm

    i lost it on the last paragraph

  • Julie

    2014/06/06 at 10:34 pm

    Once I dogsat for an epileptic corgi and heard him making some weird sounds in the middle of the night. I FLEW out of bed and turned on the light, thinking he was seizing–nope. He was humping my backpack. Hang in there, Chuck! Love & tail wags from St. Louis!

  • Lindsey Orcutt

    2014/06/07 at 4:37 pm

    So glad Chuck is doing OK!! It’s amazing how attached we can get to someone else’s dog that we’ve never met. Life is so fleeting – give Chuck and Coco an extra hug for me. I love reading about them both. 🙂

  • francescafinejewelry

    2014/06/08 at 11:34 am

    I’m glad that he’s okay and hope that it was just a one time thing. I went through it with a terrible outcome. It was a horrible thing to watch and something I will never forget. Part of me wants a dog, but then the memories come back and I say no.

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