Cold as the title may sound, there’s plenty of evidence to show that permanent brain damage from seizures, near-drowning, head-trauma, anesthesia-related hypoxia (low oxyxen in the blood) and high fevers (among other possibilities) can lead to perfectly normal lives for pet survivors of such tragedies.

Sometimes even the worst situations can have excellent outcomes—especially when we’re talking about neurotically intelligent dogs.

In fact, my parents are currently living with one. Flor, a nine-year-old Jack Russell terrier, managed to capture and mangle a toad a few months ago (see this post). In South Florida, these toads of the Bufus marinus species secrete a highly toxic slime to ensure prompt release by their now-poisoned predators. Dogs are notorious victims and their reaction begins with oral pain and ends in cardiac arrest. Seizures, however, are the visible hallmark of intoxication.

Before her battle with the toad, which she lost, hands-down, Flor was a remarkably intelligent, darn-near neurotic beast of a dog. Quick wittedly human, her obsessive desire for prey of most any species drove her to gain and lose weight depending on the season and its available victims. She’d completely ignore humans during squirrel season. And we worried she’d kill herself corralling fearsome raccoons or venomous snakes. Ironically, the dim-witted toad got to her first.

Flor’s seizures were the most dramatic I’d ever seen. She started in the car on the drive to the hospital. The fourteen-pound thing was actually flying off the seat and banging against the dashboard, the windows, everything. I almost killed us getting her there. The standard regimen of drugs wasn’t even enough. Finally, a constant infusion of a powerful anesthetic tamed the toxic effects on her brain. But the damage was already done.

Today Flor seems like a perfectly normal dog. Somehow, much more normal than before. She interacts more with humans, engages in much less of her obsessive pacing at floor-level windows, seems generally more relaxed (content?), and is actually a far better pet.

OK, so I’m not advocating seizure-therapy for neurotic dogs. After all, a Jack is a Jack. It’s bred to hunt and kill and enjoy doing it non-stop with energy to spare. But considering how overbred they must be to achieve such an energetic state, is it so bad to glory in the newfound serenity in my parents’ home? Should we feel guilty that her calamity is a source of general relief to the household? Was she happier before?

I know other pets who have suffered similar misfortunes. But none were toad-related. They all followed the same general pattern of brain injury through the means detailed in my introductory paragraph. Most owners remark on the changes in their pets—and rarely in the positive—but still, most seem just glad to have a pet who survived, who they can cuddle and love, even if they'll never be the same…