It’s 2 days before we may be sending off our stunningly beautiful, 2 year old German shepherd dog to her new home and I am struggling with the whole thing. She came to us probably too soon after our 13 1/2 year old Elle GSD and beloved fuzzy family member had to pass on. Elle was deathly sick so it was the humane thing to do to put her down. Steve and I both cried. Then along came Luna on a rescue website 10 days later and we were off and running in a caper that had more surprises and trials than we could have ever imagined! Now all I can do is sob some more when I think about where we have landed with our furry family members. Soon, both will be gone.
I am struggling again and largely bedridden most days. The drainage from chronic sinusitis is both gross and bloody; nausea has been profound and triggered by a recent ’bout with a cold then the flu. The convulsive episodes are stranger now, with an aura of spaciness leading into them that is atypical for me. Rescue remedies leave me with massive fatigue, if I have not already passed out when in bed. And shaking episodes of up to 20 minutes make it difficult to function even if I do happen to be upright when they occur. What keeps me from despair in this current downward trend is that there appears to be a causative effect of an allergy to our German shepherd dogs. Only as Elle was dying, inactive, and no longer shedding did all symptoms get better for about 2 weeks. My improvements continued as I removed older rugs and cleaned all of her favorite places in our home. And now as Luna enters her 3rd week with us, her gorgeous long hair and dander dropping everywhere, my health has headed into a significant decline. But I have never tested as allergic to dogs! What could be going on?
You know I share all this stuff because writing clarifies my thoughts and research findings. Perhaps there will be a secondary benefit of a fellow sojourner with chronic illness finding something in my story that resonates with him or her. More importantly, Gentle Reader, I hope you see the Lord’s hand working for good and His glory through the seemingly most impossible of circumstances. Ten years of virtually daily convulsive episodes and reactivity is hell to endure. I have tried to live around and through the shroud of pain and suffering, without losing my mind or life itself. Life’s lessons rarely come from the good times. Even so, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ IS GOOD, has a plan and a purpose for every paw print traipsed along the way: hers, hers, and my own. What if Luna is a gift from the Lord to show me how to get well? Would the tears of sorrow from losing one more thing give way to joy if I gain so much more in the end? My husband and I both are about to lose a fun, furry companion but he may re-gain his life partner, his wife! My activity level and health had dramatically improved during the week before we got Luna. What if I could be almost fully restored?
We can hope so, eh? Here we go again with some new ideas, some new notes:
Histamine is chemically classified as an amine, an organic molecule based on the structure of ammonia (NH3). In humans histamine is found in nearly all tissues of the body, where it is stored primarily in the granules of tissue mast cells. The blood cells called basophils also harbour histamine-containing granules. Once released from its granules, histamine produces many varied effects within the body, including the contraction of smooth muscle tissues of the lungs, uterus, and stomach; the dilation of blood vessels, which increases permeability and lowers blood pressure; the stimulation of gastric acid secretion in the stomach; and the acceleration of heart rate. Histamine also serves as a neurotransmitter, carrying chemical messages between nerve cells.
Histamine, is a prominent contributor to allergic disease. Elevations in plasma or tissue histamine levels have been noted during anaphylaxis and experimental allergic responses of the skin, nose, and airways. Thus although histamine is only one of many mediators of allergic disease, it plays a primary role in allergic rhinitis, urticaria, anaphylaxis, and to a lesser degree, asthma.
Hypersensitivity reactions (HR) are immune responses that are exaggerated or inappropriate against an antigen or allergen. Coombs and Gell classified hypersensitivity reactions into four forms. Type I, type II, and type III hypersensitivity reactions are known as immediate hypersensitivity reactions (IHR) because they occur within 24 hours. Antibodies including IgE, IgM, and IgG mediate them. There are tests for these antibodies, however, our Family Doctor states that these tests aren’t as accurate as they could be, creating false positives.
Other classes of disease including histamine include Mast Cell Activation Disease, dietary and digestive considerations, neurological and psychological conditions, migraine, brain trauma, and more.
Apart from its central role in the mediation of allergic reactions, gastric acid secretion and inflammation in the periphery, histamine serves an important function as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. The central histamine system is involved in many brain functions such as arousal, control of pituitary hormone secretion, suppression of eating and cognitive functions.
The central histaminergic actions are mediated by H1, H2, H3 and H4 receptors. The histamine H3 receptor regulates the release of histamine and a number of other neurotransmitters and thereby plays a role in cognitive and homeostatic processes. Elevated histamine levels suppress seizure activities and appear to confer neuroprotection. So far, H3 receptor antagonists/inverse agonists have garnered a great deal of interest in view of their promising therapeutic properties in various CNS disorders including epilepsy and related neurotoxicity.
The role of the brain histaminergic system in neuroprotection remains a challenging area of research that is currently under consideration. Based on recent findings, which include changes in H1 and H3 receptor expression in a KA-induced epileptic model, it has been proposed that the brain histaminergic system is involved in experimental SE (status epilepticus) and subsequent neurodegeneration (Jin et al., 2005; Lintunen et al., 2005). (Ibid)
Histamine is considered to be an anticonvulsive neurotransmitter as its low levels are associated with convulsions and seizures (Kiviranta et al., 1995; Chen et al., 2003; Hirai et al., 2004). In the review referenced here, an attempt has been made to scrutinize the recent experimental evidence that has evoked the possibility that the histaminergic system, via modulation of H3 receptor function, can be engaged to mediate a neuroprotective effect in epilepsy-related neurotoxicity and also to address the possible mechanisms involved. (Ibid)
H3 receptor antagonists (particularly Pitolisant and Ayurvedic preparations) appear to possess both anticonvulsive and neuroprotective and/or disease modifying activity as suggested in numerous experimental findings. But this could also occur from a non-histaminergic mechanism. On the basis of the substantial experimental findings generated so far, H3 receptor antagonists can be envisaged as having a therapeutic effect on epileptic and associated neurodegenerative disorders. (Ibid)
So herein we find a correlation between histamine, allergic reactions, and epileptic-type disorders. Now I don’t have epilepsy per se, as determined by several EEG studies. But I definitely have a biologic if not neurologic basis for a Convulsion Disorder that worsens with several distinct triggers and physiologic/chemical factors, not the least of which is the recent exposure to a significant allergen. As soon as Luna settled into our home, it felt like many different systems in my body went haywire including itchy skin and the gastric upset. I had fewer symptoms when away from home for a treatment at our local hospital on Tuesday. Elle was a short-haired dog and Luna is long-haired, active, and came to us in heat. Hormones don’t typically make a dog more allergenic, however pheromones might do all kinds of crazy things. Luna certainly had more of a scent during her first 10 days with us than we recall Elle ever having, even after bathing Luna and as her heat cycle continued. Luna also weighs 10 pounds more than Elle. The earliest we can have her neutered, per our vet is about a month from now. I really don’t know how I would make it until then as I am definitely reacting to her right now! Anyways, getting a dog spayed doesn’t change the allergens that reportedly come from her fur and saliva.
All of this is to say is that there may be a scientific reason that I cannot turn off an allergic, histamine reaction that may exacerbate a neurologic condition when that trigger remains in our living environment. There is a possibility of a loading phenomenon that occurred over the decade of serious illness when Elle was with us. My body got overloaded with so many medical insults that we didn’t notice the hidden allergy; I did have other signs of system overloads such as shingles and chronic headaches. Then just recently, the headaches diminished significantly by changing to a low tyramine diet! Who knew this could happen? It’s very similar to a low oxalate diet but years on a LOD made no impact on daily headaches that had worsened over the past 2 years. I would wake up every day with my head pounding before even trying to get out of bed. Another take-away here is that things do change over time. For this reason we must be vigilant to keep observing, continue researching, change our treatment protocols, ask questions, and seek the best sources we can find for help again and again. Is there more to know even a decade later? Yes, there certainly can be. And when all is submitted to prayer, then I have found that the Great Physician can order my steps through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Renewal is always possible.
Right after Steve and I started putting some of this story together, made our decision to put her up for adoption, and made Luna available on the same animal rescue site in which we found her, Steve got an email from a wonderful family who wants to meet her. They sound just like us in many ways. Perhaps we can serve as the dog foster parents for a formerly sheltered pup who blossomed under our care. I wish you could meet her, Gentle Reader. She went from being terrified of everything and everyone to wagging that bushy, bushy tail when you approach her soft brown eyes and smile that nudges your hand to pet her just a little bit longer. Scratch my belly! Seeing her running alongside Steve as he cross-country skiis is an awesome sight to behold! I wonder what she will be like after she gets her vaccines and runs free at a dog park, lap after lap after lap. Oh Luna bean, I do believe your best days are ahead of you.
Perhaps I killed the Easter bunny of 2020? I just can’t get her out of my mind . . .
Gardening with a dog keeps you more aware of your surroundings than on the tasks at hand. I have to call out for Elle every 10-15 minutes because I just don’t know where her sniffing will take her: to the pond behind us for a swim? Chasing after a young family pushing a stroller in the court? Saying “hello” to the neighbor boys cutting through someone’s yard? Rolling in goose crap? Or today, intently sizing up the nest of bunnies hidden in the vegetable bed!
Fortunately I was nearby when she decided to jump the wire fence and investigate the litter of baby rabbits in our vegetable bed up close. Then all hell broke loose! The 3 bunnies I saw scattered in 3 different directions while she dashed to and fro trying to catch one or all of them. It all happened so fast! “Elle get out of here!” I shouted only to find her jump out then jump back in again as I tried to free one of the furry creatures now strangled by the 1/2″ green chicken wire. I pushed its head backwards wondering if it would bite me? Elle grabbed onto a brother (or was it a sister?) trying to escape through the black metal fencing that enclosed the entire area; I lifted up the chicken wire and the weight of the bunny’s body below my hand broke it loose. By then I caught a glimpse of the 3rd sibling getting caught the same way just out of reach then breaking free and squeezing around the black fence post to escape the area. What mayhem ensued as the one now in Elle’s jaws squealed loudly!
I ran over to rescue it but it was too late. Probably only about 13 seconds had transpired at this point and the first one to escape had already been chomped by our German shepherd huntress. Elle often just plays around with the furry critters she finds in our yard, engaging in a terrifying-for-them and delightful-for-her game of catch and release. This time her usually soft grasp of her jaws had sheared the skin off of the back of the tiny rabbit which exposed the upper half of its pink and white spinal column. I was mortified! How grotesque! I really didn’t know what to do. The animal was suffering greatly so I shooed her captor away only to witness the little one struggling to run off into the bushes. “It’s going to run off to die,” I thought to myself and who knows what will happen after that: a turkey vulture will circle around and take her to dinner or more likely, Elle will find her and torture her some more. I knew what I had to do.
The blade of the shovel became a protective shell over her and from the menacing canine while I called out from the backyard, “Steve! Steve! Are you there?” I called for my husband in the house. He wasn’t there. I called for him in the shed. He wasn’t there. I called for him in the garage. He wasn’t there. Geez! He was just here a couple of minutes ago! Steve takes off as quickly as the dog sometimes when on a mission that only men can understand. But does he realize that his damsel is in distress and needs him RIGHT NOW?!
It was all I could do to keep Elle from going insane. I should have put her in the house but another reality came over me that took precedence: my dog, our dog had maimed a baby rabbit and it was suffering while I ran around to get someone else to take care of the matter. You know I grew up in a crowded suburb north of Detroit, Michigan, not in the country, right? You know that I barely shot a b.b. gun at a paper target as a kid and visited apple orchards for my “country” experiences. But somehow I knew that the right thing to do was to put the bunny out of its misery as soon as possible. I HAD TO DO IT. I couldn’t wait for Steve. The longer I waited, the more problems I would have with Elle and my conscience for our pup torturing the softest, cutest, fuzziest of God’s creatures now huddled in fear and taking its last breaths under a cold, steel coffin in our backyard.
I killed the bunny. I killed the baby bunny. I put the baby bunny out of its misery. I did what any country gal would do in a heartbeat without thinking about it and ended the whole ordeal. Then I went to try again to locate Steve. Just as I came around to the front of our house, he rolled up into the cul-de-sac on his land paddleboard just as happy as he could be to be outside taking in our unseasonably warm early spring day. He’d already been out for his first race practice of the year at a local lake with the Kahele outrigger canoe earlier this afternoon and just couldn’t get enough of the 70-degree temp during the first week of April. The day was beautiful. Steve was in his element. Julie was waaaaaaaay out of hers!
Steve helped me with disposing of the lifeless body of what surely would have been the Easter bunny for all of the boys and girls in the neighborhood next year . . . or so it seemed to me. I killed the Easter bunny! Oh dear. We talked through the whole ordeal again and turned our attention to the projects that I was finishing up in our yard. Preparing dinner and cleaning up the kitchen followed while thoughts of the little carcass drifted in and out of my mind. Not a good day to be cleaning the remaining chicken off of the roast I had prepared last night! The pinkness of the inner bones reminded me of that little baby’s spine. Every time I closed my eyes, I could see the raw, bleeding, exposed back of the chomped and squealing precious critter with the soft paws and fluffy tail. Oh dear. Oh my.
So maybe some of you Gentle Readers grew up taking care of dead animals during your years living in the country or on a farm? The closest I got to this was probably throwing out a mouse trap with the mouse still entrapped but already dead, its jaws locked on a piece of pinconning cheese. Always felt bad for the little things. We had gerbils for pets you know, and they all look so harmless — until you find their damage behind the sofa, in the duct work, or in your shoes with just a little hole in them! I guess I grew up a little more today, a little more like a country gal who was simply taking care of a tiny matter in the circle of life.
And now it’s time to go to bed and close my eyes. Oh Lord, help me let go of the cute, squeaky rabbit that died today. Easter is coming soon and celebrating the sacrifice you made on the cross at Calvary for us to live eternally in peace, with you, is all that matters. And thank you for the courage to act when needed to end the suffering of one of your creations. You care about them and you care about me too. You have acted miraculously in my life in recent days in a way that is further reducing my own suffering and I am exceedingly grateful. More on that another time. For tonight, I get it Lord.
“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7
Oh Elle! I guess you need to go out, right? Sometimes it takes a dog’s whining to give me the courage to try to move off the couch when my body is shaking involuntarily because of this illness. And I appreciated it today. In the midst of what would be 23 of 24 hours of this crap-ola-ski (again, Polish) I became immobilized by fear: will these symptoms never end? Somehow while standing on the back patio tossing the ball for my little buddy, they stopped. How’d she do that? Must have been puppy love.
However, she was not outdone by my Stevers earlier today. I had showered and drove to church a little late this morning to meet my hubby who had left eariler; that’s the one hour missing in the 23 of 24 hours noted above. Sure was lovely worshipping together with Steve holding me a little closer than usual. (He had seen what the morning was like earlier as he brought me breakfast in bed then watched it sit next to me until there was a break in the symptoms to enjoy it a bit later.) We chatted with a few friends after church. The sounds of so much activity started to get to me so much as a headache emerged and intensified, that I couldn’t even speak clearly before blurting out that I “had to go.” Guess Steve thought I was driving myself home.
Driving home? Not exactly. I sat in my truck (my own cool 4×4), as the shaking began and increased. There’s a new version of these “tics” that has begun since the 80-hour hiatus earlier this week: resting may not extinguish the episode. Just move and WHACK!, a gross motor anomaly with a gutteral utterance oozes out. Lord have mercy! Didn’t know what I was going to do as dialing the phone to Steve wasn’t possible yet. Then I saw him in my rear view mirror, getting into his vehicle gratefully parked within view. I hit the speed dial on my cell and he answered! Yeah God! Before long we figured out that he would be driving me home in his car. So he transferred me and my stuff over there, moved my truck to a better spot in the parking lot, and off we went home. There was a Missions Night tonight at church and something would surely work out to pick it up when we returned later.
Not exactly. Never got out of bed or off the couch in time to join Steve at church. The tics would not stop! So I turned on the tube. I used to like watching golf on T.V. as a kid and 2 of the 6 stations we get were golf. Opted for the McKales Navy re-runs instead. All day long, McKales Navy until a better choice came along . . . and that option was my sweet dog calling to me. Needing ME! Okay little buddy, I’m here for you! So I say, “Go Elle!”
By the way, you folks out there know that I always say, “Go Steve,” usually along the bank of a river as my River Bear races by in his Stellar SE Ultra kayak extraordinaire. Stevers is my hero first and foremost in this life. Today after returning home from church, you changed your clothes into super cyclist mode and rode your bike back to church in the 90+ degree heat to rescue my abandoned Frontier. Wow! Another “Goooooooooooo Steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeve” is in order! Then when you are gone, it’s, “Goooooooooo Elleeeeeeeeeee!” I am richly blessed!
And thank you Lord, for your grace today. It’s a different kind of life for me right now but not without it’s own sweet moments. Yes, like having Jesus with skin on and, er, fur on. :J
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