I hear the thump. I know what it is. Instantly awake, I fly out of bed. His legs have given way, and now he lies on his side, back arched into a curve, his four feet drawing together as if all of them could fit into one small space on the carpet. His eyes are open wide, unblinking, his gums pulled back so that upper and lower teeth are bared and all sharp, and he is convulsing and moaning, snapping and keening. Sometimes he screams first, a high-pitched piercing sound like a rabbit going down into the jaws of a fox. Patti and I lean over him, my hand under his head, and we speak to him gently, making sure we say his name repeatedly: “Wolfie Wolfie Wolfie shhhh shhhh shhhh good boy good boy sweet boy we’re here we’re here Wolfie oh Wolfie there there Wolfie.” He drools. He urinates sometimes. This goes on for one and a half minutes. It does not vary. I have timed it. His epilepsy is a chronic condition, genetic in nature. Border Collies are more prone to it than any other breed. Even with his medicine, this is his thirteenth seizure of the year 2013. They do not signal their arrival. No symptom announces it. No outward trigger gives us warning. The seizures take him only in the early morning. It is 4:30.
The convulsions slow and then stop. His eyes remain so exposed, and yet he does not recognize us. Murmuring over him, we clean him, get him on his feet, and I guide him down the stairs, leaning over in front of him, my right arm on his chest. His motor skills continue to be jangled and uneven; there have been moments when he has stumbled.
Outside, leash firmly wrapped around my hand, we walk. He would run away from me if he could. He does not know who I am. The energy released into his muscles causes him to almost break into a trot. We walk up and down the yard. Both of us are now quiet. In the summer months I would see the first hint of light in the east, but a few days after the winter solstice the neighborhood and roads are silent and very dark. After a few minutes of this long pacing, I set myself in the middle of the yard, and he walks around and around me, never stopping. I shift the leash from hand to hand behind my back. I could be standing on an old grinding stone in a mill; he completes a circle every six seconds.
I am speaking to him again, calling his name softly, waiting, waiting, and when he waves his tail at his name and sits on command, I know that he is back with us, his body settled, the electric currents of his brain again flowing within their natural courses. It is past 5:30. He remembers nothing. He is hungry.
Back inside, I bring Luna down, and we all step into the darkness again. She is always delighted to see him in the morning. In showing her joy, she waggles herself into a rapidly moving knot spinning around him.
I feed them both, and stand over them drinking coffee. When they finish, they run up the stairs together and leap onto the bed next to Patti and settle together, touching each other, and sleep.