One of my dogs is Benji. He’s an odd one. Always has been. My family members and I have talked about Benji’s personality and tried to put a finger on just what it is. We’ve decided about the closest we can come to a term that explains him is Autistic. Now – I did not know until recently that dogs can actually be diagnosed with Canine Autism. I do not know if this condition does or does not truly exist in dogs. All I know is what I see in this little sweetheart. I know he suffers from anxiety, too. But that isn’t enough to completely explain Benji’s personality.
I took Benji in from the shelter where my daughters work. He had been there for some time and seemed terribly unhappy. Younger Daughter kept watching poor Benji at the shelter and she wished for a home for him. However, he didn’t seem like a dog anyone would ever adopt. And if someone DID adopt him, it was likely he would be returned. His behavior at the shelter was almost entirely anxiety-driven. He never stopped barking. He paced constantly. Other dogs bullied him. And the dogs he lived with usually stole his food. Younger Daughter said he seemed oblivious at times to his surroundings. At some point she asked me if I might like to consider bringing Benji into my family.
It was tough connecting with Benji. There was just no emotion – ever. As I tried to make him feel like part of the family, I realized that he was attaching to me but it was an attachment unlike the usual attachment I’d seen in my dogs. Slowly, some of the anxiety abated. But there was still very little connection. The one thing that did happen was that Benji started showing up in whatever room I was in. He didn’t want to sit with me or get attention from me. He just wanted to be in the same room with me. When I would leave the house to work, Benji would pace or get in a chair by himself and stay there until I returned. Then he would join me in whatever room again – but not look at me or even act like he cared that I was back.
For some reason, I fell deeply in love with Benji. Younger Daughter kept worrying. She would watch Benji and express her dismay at his lack of attachment. She felt like I surely must be disappointed by a dog who showed no emotion whatsoever. I told her I was glad that he wasn’t having to deal with the shelter environment and the constant anxiety he had been experiencing there. I told her to stop worrying – Benji was home and I loved him. And somewhere in there, I knew he loved me, too.
Benji has never wanted to be touched. He jumps and draws away when anyone tries to pet him. He paces. He also trembles. It’s like a Chihuahua tremble. It has never made sense. At night, he joins us in bed, but he gets far away from us so that our bodies don’t accidentally touch his during the night. He does sit in a chair with me when I’m watching television, but he prefers I not pet him. He has no real connection with any of the other animals in the house. Very often, Ressie and Rube join him in a chair. He doesn’t bolt away; he allows them to be there with him. But he never chooses a spot with them if they are already there.
All of that is fine with me. But a couple of weeks ago, I caught Benji (in my peripheral vision) fall over and jump back up so quickly it was almost as if it hadn’t happened at all. He paced after that for a few minutes but pacing is common for him. It was very strange and I did actually worry about it. But I didn’t REALLY start worrying until it happened again a few days later. I heard it this time. I knew from the sound that one of my dogs had just fallen behind me and I whirled around to see Benji pace away and do a couple of figure-eights. I got on my knees in front of him and reached out but this made him nervous and he paced off into the family room and jumped into a chair. Over the next several days I witnessed four or five incidents that I can only describe as looking like mini-seizures. He would stop suddenly, get slightly off balance, and stare. I made an appointment.
Benji was seen by Dr. A last Wednesday. I had already worked myself into a bit of a panic. Benji has a healthy appetite but he has lost weight. At the shelter he was underweight, but this was primarily because he let other dogs take his food. When he came to me, he slowly gained weight. In fact, he got a little on the chunky side for a while. But now he is slightly underweight again. I did some online research while waiting the couple of days until our appointment. I worried that Benji had seizure disorder due to brain cancer. That would explain the current behaviors and the weight loss.
Dr. A knows me well. So she immediately started explaining the many, many other things that could be going on. She did a full exam. She was able to rule out a heart problem – which could have accounted for the falling over and the seizure-like behavior I was seeing. She took blood and would do a full panel. I mentioned in passing that his ears seemed to be bothering him recently and would she please check (since we were there) for possible ear mites. She checked (no ear mites) but Benji had a DOUBLE ear infection. Poor boy. She gave me the medication for that and said she would call me the next day with the blood work results. She also told me that we wouldn’t start phenobarbital unless the seizure-like activity became worse.
The next day she reported the bloodwork results. EVERYTHING NORMAL. That did not rule out brain cancer of course. But the organs are all in good shape. I was to monitor the seizure-like behaviors and report back if they increased. The ear infection has now received treatment for five days. And here’s the thing. Benji is having fewer “episodes.” In the last three days, I’ve only seen one of the mini-seizures. We don’t know for sure yet, but it is possible that what I thought was seizure activity was actually the result of Benji feeling dizzy and off-balance due to the ear infection. I can report, today, that my Benji Boy is nearly back to his old self – his usual “Autistic” self. We will see how this progresses. In the meantime, I so so so love this dog! And I’m happy to have him back to HIS normal.
Before I go . . . Mindy Slimmer strikes again! She is celebrating another fur baby birthday by sending fantastic Wish List items to Winnie’s Wish. The birthday girl this time is ANOTHER previous Wisher – Golden.
See you tomorrow – with two new Wild Angel babies.