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Dogs of Dogileptic: Arya the K9 Search and Rescue Dog

Epileptic k9 Search and Rescue Dog
Arya and Karla Out on a Mission

Hi! I’m Arya, and I’m an emergency search and rescue dog who happens to have epilepsy.


As a search and rescue dog I have a lot of responsibility. I work with my partner in crime and best friend Karla (she’s a human) as part of the SARK9 team of Manada K9. Our unit works with Civil Protection of Nuevo León in Mexico to locate missing people. I’ve helped find and retrieve humans trapped by extreme floods, hurricanes, and even collapsed buildings. I’m actually patrolling as I’m writing this due to the current hurricane Alberto hitting our town.


So you might be wondering how did I decide to become a search and rescue dog? Well it kind of runs in the family. My mom was a search and rescue dog in the Manada K9 squad. When she gave birth to me and my litter in 2020, we all started our training with the hopes that we too could be search and rescue dogs like our mommy. At this time my future partner and best friend Karla had just started volunteering with the squad. I later learned she wanted to be involved in the training techniques for search and rescue dogs because it combined her passion for dogs with altruistic work. She’s a really good human. We hit it off right away and she decided to adopt me - I’m so lucky to get to call her my owner.

Epileptic Puppy and Owner
Me and Karla When I was a Pup

The training was super fun, exciting, and challenging. Every day was something new to explore and learn about. Early on I was exposed to loud noises, weird textures and smells, and a lot of exercise including regular swim lessons in all sorts of water. I guess the goal of all this is to make sure we are prepared for whatever comes our way when we are on the job finding lost humans. You definitely needed to be smart and energetic to do well. Here's a video Karla put together from our puppy training days. Good thing there were plenty of delicious snacks to keep us going, the better we did at each task the more snacks we got! At the end of the training period there was a class exam for all the new puppies to see if we had what it takes to be a search and rescue dog. I passed with flying colours, top of the class (sorry for barking about myself)! I was over the moon and couldn’t wait to start my work as a search and rescue dog.


I had already been working as a search and rescue dog for over a year with Karla when I had my first seizure. It happened right before my second birthday. I’m not a dog who has a lot of fear and to be honest I can’t really remember what happened during the seizure, but I can tell you it was scary to see Karla so worried about me. We went in to a special vet and did all these crazy tests which luckily came back normal. I started a medicine from the doctor and went back to my normal life.


A month later I had another seizure, this time is was a bad one. I can’t remember what happened before or during it, but Karla told me it was really bad: I started seizing and couldn’t stop. I went into something called status epilepticus and had to be rushed to the hospital in an emergency situation. I was hospitalised for a week. When I regained consciousness I realised I couldn’t see anything (like a fellow Arya, Arya Stark). Then I realised I couldn’t hear anything. Then I realised I couldn’t smell anything. How could life go on like this? What type of life would it be for me if I couldn’t even do normal doggy things let alone continue my passion for search and rescue missions? Would I ever hear or smell or see my best friend again? I was scared, sad and confused.

 

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My doctors gave me a bad prognosis for recovery and suggested to Karla that she should put me to sleep. Honestly I don’t blame them given the state I was in, but Karla wouldn’t accept it. She believed in me and knew I was a fighter—that I was strong and would come through it and get better. I sensed her belief and her confidence as she stayed by my side, and her positive attitude gave me even more power to get better.


Karla was right. Just two weeks later I regained all of my physical senses! I was able to smell, see, and hear perfectly well. I am so grateful for Karla’s dedication and positive thinking, her relentless belief in me to come through it. 


The important stuff to her was done (I was completely healthy) but to me what was important was being able to get back to my work. There was a big search and rescue competition coming up just one month after I was hospitalised and I wanted to compete. I had been training for it and looking forward to it for months, and I was worried maybe the large seizure would have made me a bit slow or sluggish, or that I wouldn’t remember all my training.


The competition took place at Jalisco and was held over 2 days. They simulated a collapse of a hotel and placed sample targets (representing humans) throughout the rubble for us dogs to locate them. I was worried I wouldn’t perform at my best because just a month ago I was blind, deaf, and couldn’t smell a single thing. To everyone’s surprise not only did I successfully complete the tasks and compete, I was the fastest of the entire group to locate all the samples! 


epileptic search and rescue dog

Karla and I had a huge celebration together that day, celebrating our health, bond, and life together. We have a really strong bond which I think helps with managing my epilepsy. She can read me sometimes better than I can read myself, knowing when I’m tired physically or mentally, and convincing me that it would be better to relax than to do something active. Every time we go on a mission together she takes extra precautions to prepare me a special emergency pack including my meds, emergency meds, special food, hydration salts, healthy snacks, ice packs (in case I get hot), and of course a whole lot of love.


Since that time I was hospitalised, we’ve worked hard to find a routine that works to help support my brain and make it more seizure resilient in addition to the medications from my neurologist. Some things that I’ve found really helpful include a ketogenic diet, MCT oil, Salmon oil, CBD oil, Taurine, and a few other supplements too. It has been really helpful that Karla created a guided schedule with all the information needed on my routine along with emergency numbers for my vets. It keeps things organised and easy to follow for her and anyone else who looks after me.

 

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Every 6 months we perform blood tests to make sure my kidneys and liver are doing good, and check the levels of medications in my bloodstream to see if I should adjust my dose. Other than that I live a super normal life. I don’t really think about my seizures and I certainly would not want to be defined as “the epileptic dog”—it’s the least interesting thing about me and my life!


When I’m not rescuing people, I love to just hang out with Karla, relax, sleep, cuddle. I love to play with my Kong too. Most of all, I love to be told what a good girl I am and live my pampered pooch life fantasy (I am a dog after all!) I hope other dogs and owners can take inspiration and hope from my story — to not give up and stay positive, things really do get better! You can do pretty much anything as an epi dog - don’t live in fear that everything will be a trigger. Do what you love to do, get back to being a dog. Canine Epilepsy doesn’t define me—I’m Arya and I’m a loving, happy, healthy dog, and a proud member of Dogs of Dogileptic.


Epileptic Dog and Owner








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Thanks for sharing her story 🫶🏻

And...

"What do we say to the God of dead?

Not Today"



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