November Epilepsy Awareness Month: Meet Epi-Star CHEYENNE
by Dorothy Wills-Raftery
Cheyenne was a beautiful eight-week-old Belgian Sheepdog when she became a member of Terry Kelley and Mark Pilant’s family in September 2009. “Months before, we had lost our first Belgian, Player, to cancer and wanted to honor his life by getting another Belgian,” explains Terry. “For the first five weeks with us, all was well. Cheyenne was a sweet puppy, played with our other dogs and was respectful of our cats. Then, at 13.5 weeks of age, she had her first focal seizure. We were out in our front yard, and I saw her suddenly become very unsteady and start to wobble. It was over in 10 seconds. Part of me dismissed it as just being a clumsy puppy, but part of me knew it was something more.”
Four days later, Terry explains how she and her husband were in their front yard with Cheyenne videotaping her puppy antics, “when she suddenly froze, became disoriented, and started to shake. The video camera hit the ground as we rushed to her side as the grand mal seizure began and all our lives changed forever.
The first six months of Cheyenne’s life were what Terry and
Mark refer to “a whirlwind of increasing seizures and neurologist visits.” And
because she was so young at the onset, a brain tumor was feared. But after some
investigation, and no help from the breeder, they discovered that the source of
Cheyenne’s seizures was genetics and she was diagnosed with atypical primary
“Cheyenne was a great Epi-warrior, and ambassador for dogs living with epilepsy. She did not let the disease get her down or define who she was. She was a fun loving, smart and loving Belgian Sheepdog who loved life, her furry pack, and her people,” says her hu-parents, who helped manage her disease and “were always on the lookout for fun things we could do together.”
Cheyenne, who is also one of the stars in my book, EPIc Dog Tales: Heartfelt Stories About Amazing Dogs Living & Loving Live With Canine Epilepsy.
“Cheyenne was a great Epi-warrior, and ambassador for dogs living with epilepsy. She did not let the disease get her down or define who she was. She was a fun loving, smart and loving Belgian Sheepdog who loved life, her furry pack, and her people.” ~Terry Kelley
“Cheyenne was blessed to have two seizure alert dogs in our family. The first was Tala, our Samoyed, and Cheyenne's BFF. Cheyenne was three years old when we brought home eight-week-old Tala, and they bonded immediately. Although never trained, at age two, Tala started to alert bark if Cheyenne was having a seizure and we were not right nearby.”
Terry recalls the first time Tala alerted them. “We were tending to Cheyenne, Tala laid down against Cheyenne's back as if to say, "I've got your back, sister".
The second alert dog was Tumbleweed, one of our Keeshonden, who was particularly attuned to Cheyenne's more subtle (focal) seizures as he grew up. Tumble loved big sister Cheyenne and he saved her life one night when she was having subtle focal seizures. He refused to stop barking at us and when we realized what was happening, Mark rushed Cheyenne to the ER and her life was saved. Between Tala and Tumble, Cheyenne was kept safe in very good paws.”
Seizures did not stop Cheyenne from loving life, and, as
Terry tells it, “But most of all, she loves her dad—he is her ‘heart.’” It was
very early in Cheyenne’s life when “We discovered her love for her doggy pool
and sprinklers. From the moment we put the pool out for her in the spring, until we had to put it away (because it was simply getting too cold),
if Cheyenne was outside she headed straight for her pool! She loved to stick
her muzzle under water and blow bubbles. Cheyenne also liked ‘attacking’ the
sprinklers to get a drink and get quite thoroughly soaked, whether in our yard or on one of our many walks!”
“Cheyenne lived her life to the fullest every day and so did we.” ~Terry Kelley
And that wasn’t all Cheyenne enjoyed! “Cheyenne got to enjoy many dog sports. While she could not safely compete in agility, she loved to take classes and run around with Mark, over jumps and through tunnels. She was able to use her natural abilities and compete in scent work trials with her Dad, too. Cheyenne was very subtle in her alerting, just to keep Mark on his toes. So subtle, that many judges would miss her alerts; Mark got most of them!"
Terry noted that people who knew Cheyenne enjoyed seeing her out having fun. “Cheyenne lived her life to the fullest every day and so did we. She became an Angel in February 2021 at age 11.5 years, not because of her epilepsy, but from cancer.”
“Cheyenne is loved and missed every day, and we were blessed that she was our furry kid to love and care for always. Her spirit lives on in our memories and we know she is waiting at the Rainbow Bridge for us, with the rest of our furry family.”
Other Stories in Epi-Star Series:
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