November Epilepsy Awareness Month: Meet Epi-Star OLIVIA
As we approach the end of November’s Epilepsy Awareness Month, and my special #Epi-Star stories (based on the concept of my book EPIc Dog Tales: Heartfelt Stories About Amazing Dogs Living & Loving Life With Canine Epilepsy). I feel so privileged to bring you these stories about how Epi-dogs (dogs with epilepsy) are true warriors and enjoy life, no matter what! Today, I’d like to highlight a fellow Canine Epilepsy advocate, and a long-time Epi-friend, sweet “Olivia” and her hu-mom, Jeanaann Barnaby.
Jeanaann has a lot of information on Canine Epilepsy in her blog in Knotty Toys for Good Dogs, including free Ebooks. She also runs the Oh, the Life of Olivia and Knotty Toys for Good Dogs Facebook pages, where she also posts information on Canine Epilepsy. And, if that wasn't enough,Jeanaann is also the social media director for the nonprofit The Wally Foundation~Canine Epilepsy, where she continues to work toward awareness for Canine Epilepsy and offers information and resources for families of Epi-dogs!
Olivia was one of my original Epi-Stars in my award-winning book that included Jeanaann sharing Olivia’s story.
To recap Olivia's story, Jeanaann has worked in the shelter world for “many years in my early days, it still always takes me by surprise when I enter this world.” On one particular day, above “usual cacophony of howls, barks, and yelps…one voice cut above them all. I followed the sound to a cage, and it was then I first laid eyes on Olivia. She was leaping to the top of her cage and barking madly for all to see and hear. However, it was obvious that everyone in the shelter was doing their best to ignore her. I knelt in front of her cage and called her by her shelter name “Molly” and asked her to sit. Much to everyone’s surprise, she sat on command and remained quiet while she looked directly at me waiting for further instructions. I told her I was going to get a leash and I would be right back.” When Molly met with Mickey (Jeanaann’s white Shepherd/Husky mix) who--like Jeanaann, was grieving the recent loss of their other family member, a Pit Bull/Rottweiler/Bouvier mix--it went well, and Molly’s official adoption date was February 19, 2011 and she was renamed Olivia.
“If I were to share a personal
thought to those finding themselves new to Canine Epilepsy, I would say, ‘Don't
give up, and compassion starts with you. Take care of yourself so you can take
care of your epilepsy warrior.” ~Jeanaann Barnaby
Today, Olivia and Jeanaann head up the two Facebook pages, plus the website Knotty Toys for Good Dogs, which is Jeanaann's home business for all-things dogs. On both of the Facebook pages as well as her website, there is much information about life with Canine Epilepsy, as well as support to others who are the same journey. On the Knotty Toys for Good Dogs website is also Jeanaann and Olivia's blog that contains much information on Canine Epilepsy, from dispelling rumors to emotional support, and even a FREE Ebook series. This is a site chock-full of information and one worth visiting.
Catching up with Jeanaann and Olivia, Jeanaann tells me, “There are two statements that are true for anyone living with epilepsy. One, epilepsy is a forever changing journey. The other is, if someone in the family lives with Epilepsy, the whole family lives with epilepsy.”
And that is the absolute truth. If your dog is on this journey with epilepsy, the whole family and any packmates you have are, too. My Gibson’s schedule was so important that no matter what we did or where we went, we had a certain time-frame window before I needed to get back to him for monitoring and medications, as well as mini-protein meals to avoid hypoglycemia. In addition, he had hypothyroidism and sometimes the anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) would upset his stomach, so I found that feeding him smaller protein-based snacks throughout the day between his breakfast and dinner really helped.
Olivia tirelessly advocates for dogs with epilepsy, sharing her life
on Oh, the Life of Olivia Facebook page.
Jeanaann brings us up to date on her beautiful girl, Olivia. “Since the publication of EPIc Dog Tales, there have been many changes in Olivia's journey. We moved from our cozy home in the woods to a small community where I bought a modest home with a lovely backyard surrounded by lilacs and apple trees.” Then in 2016, they tragically lost their home, all of their possessions, and their family cat, Miss Missy to the fire, and another cat, Miss Dot, was lost for 16 days. Thankfully, Jeanaann says she was located living under a shed where her indoor pot-bellied pigs were staying until she could find them another home to live in.
“We stayed with a dear friend for a month and during this time Olivia suffered seizure episodes every 11 days; more often these seizures were cluster seizures. This was unfortunate; prior to the fire Olivia was doing extremely well and was on her way to decreasing her medications. I felt this was due to the introduction of CBD. It would be six months before we found our new home, which turned out to be our previous home in the woods. It felt like a good decision. It was up for sale, a short move, and a familiar place for Olivia and GG and MIG, my pot-bellied pigs.”
Once they settled, Jeanaann said things were going well for Olivia. “Seizures were managed, but we did not see the control we had prior to the fire. It should be noted she was not taking CBD oil; we had lost our supply from the fire…. At this point Olivia was now taking Phenobarbital, Potassium Bromide, Zonisamide (a compound drug here in Canada) and Keppra her cluster buster. After a few years of peaceful living and the inclusion of Full Spectrum Hemp CBD oil, we started to see less seizures episodes in Olivia. In fact, she was coming up on a year seizure free!”
At the time, Jeanaann said she and Olivia’s vet started discussing decreasing her Phenobarbital. “Unfortunately, winter moved in and with it came severe storms and several low-pressure systems, which among full-moon cycles, over excitability were triggers for Olivia.”
“Olivia is 12 years young. She is healthy and happy. She loves going for walks and meeting other dogs. She especially enjoys patrolling the yard and barking at the squirrels.” ~Jeanaann Barnaby
Jeanaann says they did eventually get control of Olivia’s seizures. “At this point, I reached out to a professional who recommended using a high CBD/low THC oil, which Olivia is currently using and doing very well on. She still takes her other pharmaceutical drugs, but we are seeing less seizure episodes, and when we do, they are quick, there is less post-ictal behavior, and she recovers much more quickly.”
Today, “Olivia is 12 years young,” says Jeanaann. “She is healthy and happy. She loves going for walks and meeting other dogs. She especially enjoys patrolling the yard and barking at the squirrels.”
Has living with a beloved Epi-dog changed their lives? “Canine Epilepsy has changed both Olivia's and my world in many ways,” notes Jeanaann. “I'd say it has made our bond stronger. It has introduced us to some amazing people and incredible dogs. It's taught me the value of staying in the moment, the importance of gratitude, the gift of sharing our experience, and lending a compassionate ear.”
Jeanaann credits Olivia with her starting her own home business, the Knotty Toys for Good Dogs site “where I sell handmade hemp toys for cats and dogs, as well as the line of herbal supplements Olivia uses herself, and CBD oil.”
Through this journey with Olivia, Jeanaann discovered The Wally Foundation (TWF) of which she currently sits on the board as secretary and is the nonprofit’s social media director for the past seven years.
Jeanaann has also completed, and is accredited as a Pet Bereavement counselor, which she says, “Has given me the tools to help others and help myself in managing anticipatory grief, as well as help those who have lost their epilepsy warriors through their immense grief journey.”
And when asked what important message she could share with others, Jeanaann says, “If I were to share a personal thought to those finding themselves new to Canine Epilepsy, I would say, ‘Don't give up, and compassion starts with you. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your epilepsy warrior.”
“Canine Epilepsy has changed both Olivia's and my world in many ways. I'd say it has made our bond stronger. It has introduced us to some amazing people and incredible dogs. It's taught me the value of staying in the moment, the importance of gratitude, the gift of sharing our experience, and lending a compassionate ear.” ~Jeanaann Barnaby
Jeanaann was among the panel of guests on the recent "Talking About Canine Epilepsy" zoom event. Click on the image below to listen to watch the broadcast On Demand any time. Be sure to enter the passcode: cjZCQs8?
To follow Oh, the Life of Olivia’s Facebook page, go HERE.
To follow Knotty Toys for Good Dogs Facebook page, go HERE.
For more info on Canine Epilepsy, visit Jeanaann & Olivia's blog HERE.
For more information on The Wally Foundation~Canine Epilepsy, go HERE.
Note: These are the personal stories of Epi-dogs as told by their families. As always, discuss any medications, alternative treatments, new foods, etc., with your veterinarian first before giving to your dog.
Other Stories in the Epi-Star Series:
to our Home Page and Our Other Pages, including
Our About the Breed Page and Our #LiveGibStrong On-Line K-9 Epilepsy
Resource Page, ArcticHouse Books & Gifts Shoppe & so much more!
on "More" Pages at top of blog.