NEAM: Meet EpiStars Siberian Huskies Sierra & Kota of Animal Town Sanctuary

 Epi-Stars, "Sierra" and "Kota" 


by Dorothy Wills-Raftery  

November is NEAM--National Epilepsy Awareness Month, and I've been an advocate for dogs with epilepsy (Epi-dogs) ever since my Gibson was diagnosed shortly after his third birthday in 2009, becoming an official Purple Day® for Epilepsy Ambasssador for Canine Epilepsy (first to include a canine in the organization, which I am totally proud of! Steps for canines!) Why? To let people know a) they are not alone in their often times scary journey, and b) that today, Epi-dogs can--and DO--live happy lives. Inspired by my own Epi-Star Gibson’s story, I wrote the beautiful large coffee table book and multi-award winning EPIc Dog Tales: Heartfelt Stories About Amazing Dogs Living & Life With Canine Epilepsy, where I share stories of amazing Epi-dogs and their equally amazing human families who care for them across the world. So, last year I began this blog's Epi-Star Features to continue highlighting these these amazing dogs who never let epilepsy stop them from loving life--and that is, and always will be, my continuous message. 

The Poper's beautiful "Kota," one of the Epi-Stars in my book
To purchase my book, go to our FiveSibes
For November's Epilepsy Awareness Month, we are offering a 
25% DISCOUNT using our code: EPIcGIBSON ~and~ DONATING 20% to a Canine Epilepsy nonprofit.
Simply Email us at ArcticHousePublishing(at) 
and put EPIc Dog Tales in subject line and you will receive an invoice with the discount. Offer ends 12/31/2023.
There is a limited quantity of print books.

Travis and Lisa Poper, who own and operate the nonprofit Animal Town Sanctuary (ATS) in California, where they provide a lifetime of care and shelter for special needs and senior Huskies, know all about dogs with seizures, they shared life with not one, but two dogs who lived with Canine Epilepsy. At ATS, "These animals have been rescued from San Diego, Riverside, and Los Angeles County animal shelters literally hours from euthanasia. The rescued animals are brought here to stay until they pass away from natural causes. The rescued animals are ALL seniors and sadly, most have been abused or neglected in some way. We rehabilitate them every day for the rest of their lives. We also provide hospice when the time comes. Unlike traditional shelters that emphasize adoption, the primary purpose of Animal Town Sanctuary is to provide a lifetime of care and sheltering for these rescued animals."
Travis and Lisa's first personal dog to have epilepsy was Lisa’s Siberian Husky. “Her name was Sierra, and she was Lisa’s puppy that I gave her when we were dating,” says Travis. Sierra began having seizures when she was two years old. “We didn’t have her medicated as she didn’t have seizures that often,” notes Travis. “But, when she did, they were long.” Sierra was seven years old when she had her last seizure, and it was devastating for Travis and Lisa. “It was a fatal 45-minute seizure in my arms,” recalls Travis, who had administered CPR to her, but sadly she had passed.

Lisa Poper with puppy "Sierra"

However, rather than Sierra's sudden and sad passing scare them away from dogs with special needs, Travis and Lisa were inspired to do did the exact opposite. “After Sierra, we bought the big property for more Huskies and began Animal Town Sanctuary so we could provide a lifetime of care and shelter for special needs and senior Huskies.

Enter their next Epi-dog, “Kota,” who had developed Canine Epilepsy when he was two years old, the same age Sierra did. But now he was a family member at the Poper’s sanctuary where he could live his life as a Husky was meant to live. Kota, (who is one of the Epi-Stars in my book EPIc Dog Tales: Heartfelt Dogs Living & Loving Life With Canine Epilepsy) had cluster seizures, and Travis says he typically would have “three grand mal seizures every 30 days,” where Kota would lose control “of his functions and he would collapse and convulse for up to two minutes.” Kota’s post-seizure behavior typically consisted of what most of us recognize, the pacing, which Kota did “for up to six hours.” Naturally, due to Kota being an Epi-dog, Travis said he had to “be constantly monitored for his safety, as well as the other ‘residents’ (Huskies) of Animal Town.”

“Sierra and Kota lived their best lives. Kota’s quality of life was very good. His seizures were ‘maintained’ with all of the care, medicine, and attention he received. He spent his days relaxing under a tree with his brother and sister Huskies at the sanctuary.”
~Travis & Lisa Poper, Hu-Parents to 2 Epi-dogs & Owners of Animal Town Sanctuary

Kota lived until he was eight-and-a-half years old, and he did not let epilepsy stop him from enjoying life as a Husky. “He was still a fun husky until his last year when he got nasal cancer. Then it was tougher to treat both of his illnesses.”
Travis said that they did put Kota on anti-seizure medications. “Kota has been on either one or both Potassium Bromide (KBr) and/or Phenobarbital since his very first seizure in 2009. The medicines and  had made no improvement in the amount, length, or frequency of his seizures. Fearing long-term damage on Kota’s liver from the medications that weren’t really helping him anyhow, the decided to change his diet and add some holistic additions.


“We immediately put him on a grain-free diet and saw a slight improvement in the number of his seizures. Happy with the results, we took it even further and decided to home cook his food.” Travis says Kota’s diet became one of organic sweet potatoes, yams, celery, zucchini, yellow squash, blueberries, apples, carrots, and chicken or cod. Kota was given a donation by a generous ATS donor to visit an acupuncturist in Orange County.


“He liked it!” Travis said Kota was very calm by the session, plus “he was given new medicines that were added to his traditional medication regimen. “We introduced Lepsilyte, Skullcap, and a few other holistic medicines.”

Travis and Lisa were thrilled that Kota went five months with no seizures for the first time in his life, “but sadly they did return, only not as severe as before.”

When asked why he thought both of his Huskies had epilepsy, Travis said, “I blame it on breeders. I got both of them as puppies (my ONLY puppies in my life ). Both of them were in dark garages and the ladies had multiple sets of puppies. I didn’t’ know any better at that time. I was dumb and young.”


But Travis wasn’t alone in not knowing what went on at backyard breeding facilities. As a matter of fact, it has only been the last decade or so that more and more information and findings have come to light not just about bad breeders and the horrible conditions of puppy mills, but also about Canine Epilepsy. Today we now know that for Epi-dogs, there are medications, treatments, changes, and therapies that can be explored so that these Epi-warriors can live happy, quality lives, whereas if you wind the clock back 10 to 12 years, people were frightened by the seizures and vet recommendations were often for euthanasia. Thankfully, that is no longer the case today. We’ve come a long way and today, we now know so much more about triggers, medications, and holistic options. Today, we all are more aware and informed.


”Kota was my personal dog at that time,” says Travis, “but we added nine more brothers and sisters for him, and those were ALL rescued.” As they welcomed more Huskies in need to the sanctuary, Kota was their last personal dog. All the others, who were all seniors over the age of nine including four more with special needs, became lifetime residents of the sanctuary. The hard part about having dogs so close in age, as I well know with my own FiveSibes, is that when it is their time to journey north of the Rainbow Bridge, they pass within a short amount of time from each other, and that takes a huge emotional toll. “That was tough,” he admits, saying that was when they cut back on the number of special needs Huskies living at the sanctuary.

Epi-dog Kota enjoying life...and snow, of course! (This photo depicts such joy, it just touches this author's heart!)

Looking back, Travis says, “Sierra and Kota lived their best lives. Kota’s quality of life was very good. His seizures were ‘maintained’ with all of the care, medicine, and attention he received. He spent his days relaxing under a tree with his brother and sister Huskies at the sanctuary.” Travis and Lisa gave them all wonderful care. “We were natural caretakers because we cannot have children, so we would, and still do, go waaaaay above and beyond what we will do to care for our dogs.”


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. 



  1. Bless Travis and Lisa for providing a loving and safe place for huskies. Their dedication is inspiring.

  2. Such sweet pups and such wonderful caretakers too.


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