Sweetbriar Dreams

So where shall we go on our journey today?

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A Day at Southend on Sea, Essex

Southend on Sea, an old favourite haunt of mine from toddler to teenager and then a few trips with my little ones.  Oh the memories - my Nan and Grandpa claiming their deckchairs no matter if the rain was falling sideways, the small glass containers of cockles soaked in vinegar, the little cafe that served hot AND buttered toast with extremely sweet tea, the suspicious objects floating in the water, the little spider monkeys on the  corners of the promenade to have a picture taken on your shoulder.  Oh happy days!  All long gone now I'm afraid (only the occasional suspicious object in the water!!).  This was to be mine and Mumsy's first 'coach trip' this year (more trips are in my side bar).  So, for those not near a beach as you read this post, grab yourself a bucket or bowl of ice water to dip your toes in, an ice cream, and a knotted hankie on your head, and here we go... Southend on Sea (or as I pronounce it - Saff End on Sea)

The last time I was here was twelve years ago!  My two teens were little toddlers enjoying the flying pink elephants and the crooked house.   The pink elephants and crooked house were still there but the Pirate Ship was demolished last year to make way for a soft play area that is yet to be opened.  Such a shame as that ship was as though you were walking on board and was a little different to the loud and scary rides.  Miss Teen and her friend Miss B are now thrill seekers so with a blue wrist band purchased, they were off to enjoy as many rides as possible!

How sick I felt as I saw my amazing daughter and her friend appear at the top of the Rage Ride and then plummet towards the ground, twisting, turning at enormous speed.  Me and Mumsy kept our feet firmly on the ground!

Southend on Sea has changed so much in twelve years.  I can remember this area just buzzing with entertainment and tourist traps no matter what the weather or season, but for a sunny Saturday it was incredibly quiet apart from the pubs full of football fans... maybe that was why.  

Apart from Adventure Island for the girls, we wanted to get on the Southend Pier.  Another trip down memory lane for us, especially with walking the mile and a half of wooden boards down the longest pier in the world.

We didn't have to walk of course, we could have got the train but we wanted to walk along and think of the hundreds of times we have done this before with members of the family and friends that have now gone.

You know when you go back to a place and think, "It all seems so small".  Well, this happened a little here.  I was sure that the walk up to the end of the Pier was wider and that there were far more of these shelters along the way.  I think there were three today.  My Nan used to sit at these with our lunch handed out and the wind howling around our ears.  Them were the days!

There have been changes over the years, especially in the 1980's after a series of fires and boats crashing into the Pier, I mean, after all, it's not big enough to see is it?!!  

There were quite a few of these new benches giving lovely views of the area and Canvey Island.  The sun making its appearance and sparkling off the Thames Estuary and through the benches - beautiful!

The cloud's shadows were reflected on the water, showing off the shining sun off the waves.  I could have watched this for hours.

The train tracks follow our walk, showing their age with the gorgeous rust that envelopes the steel.

Markers show you how long you have walked and the distant shore starts to look like a toy village.

The water was lapping against the structure, its green colour so familiar!

The colour of the rust against the green water was just adorable.  Some would turn their noses up but I really love seeing decay like this and colour that makes me smile.

Towards the end of the Pier are the fisherman, all enjoying their weekend and having a little dance with me and my camera as they walked along with the rods over the side.

And now the beach huts!  Towards the end of the Pier these stand bright and proud.  You can have a little rest in these - and a wee!  Yes they are toilets!!

This is the end of the line for the train and our feet were still in health, so we walked on a little more.

We stopped to get an ice cream from this lovely little building towards the end, not realising that this is the little cafe that is used in the Jamie and Jimmys Food Fight programme.  The cafe was all closed up and the furniture waiting for the cameras to be switched on again.  Being a big fan of Jamie Oliver I was a bit put out that I wasn't going to get a delicious dinner after this walk!

At the end of the Pier and looking back at the coastline it seems like we are miles away!

The Lifeboat Station is at the end, but no lifeboat to be seen, just the vivid flag against the blue and white sky.

Then, right at the very end, this bell.  The old wood and rusty metal being happily captured by me.  I've no idea what it is for and I have tried to find something about it but... nothing!  Looks lovely though.

 The girls wanted to get back to the rides so the long walk back had to be done quickly.  They loved this place.

 Thanks Southend for so, so many happy memories as I grew up and started to become independant.  It's been a while and you have changed as much as me and it is time to say goodbye. 

 Thank you once again for your incredibly kind and sincere comments both on my blog and via email after I lost Coco.  I will be printing them to add them to a personal book on her and her life.  Thank you also to those who signed the petition, the signatures are growing and the petition has had coverage on Radio Four.  You can hear Charlotte speaking about the petition and the disease here (she is about 24 minutes into this and was brilliant).  In case you want to sign the petition, the link is in my side bar.

The last couple of weeks have been truly awful and I am yet to catch up with you all.  It has been so hard to even write this post.  This has been made harder after collecting Coco's ashes and then hearing the incredibly sad news that Mumsy had to say goodbye to her dog Charlie the following day.  Charlie had post op complications and the hardest decision had to be made.  The devastation for our family is unbelievable so to just walk along this Pier helped us a little, but coming home to the emptiness in both households is so very hard.

Thank you for being there.

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Friday, 17 April 2015

Thank You

I have fought with my feelings this week and just didn't know how to put things in writing, but there are just two words that are plain and simple and express so much:


Thank you so much for all your wonderful, heart felt comments and personal messages last week regarding my Coco.  You made the tears pour but the comfort you gave me and my family made us truly humble to the wonderful people you are.

The pain that followed those last few moments of Coco's life is difficult to describe.  There are no words that can reflect the excruciating pain, the emptiness, the loneliness in each room of our home.  This was, and is, truly unbearable but we have now had a little time to reflect on when her moment came.  She chose her time after having a week with us all together, enjoying walks, having lots more cuddles, the weather as she liked it and being able to enjoy sitting in the garden with us, laying in her favourite spot after rummaging through cobwebs and dusty leaves again.

Coco's life was content.  She was no trouble to anyone.  So, why did she die?  The answer is a disease that is so prevalent in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels - Syringomyelia (yes, I have trouble saying it too).  It is known as SM for short but it is no way a small disease.  Now, my blog is not a shouting board as regular readers know, but please indulge me today (call it my therapy for grief).  Those beautiful little dogs with their enormous loving eyes, their long coats and ears, their incredibly gentle temperament also have a small skull.  This skull through strict rules on breeding for their pedigree contains a brain that does not know that it should have lessened in size too, which basically means that the brain leaks through to the spinal chord causing extreme distress and pain.  These gorgeous dogs continue to be bred without any tests on their parents to see if this is in the gene pool along with Mitral Valve Disease, another killer for these dogs.  Yes, potential owners do their research, as we did, but nothing prepares you for what follows if your dog is affected.

Gradually, as with us, the owner will notice a little 'tap tap tap' from a back leg.  We used to call Coco 'thumper' when any guests came around thinking that she was just excited.  Her back leg would tap on the floor giving a false scratch to an itch that wasn't there.  Little did we know that this was her feeling pain down her spine when she got excited.

Then, after time, this little air scratch was accompanied by her curving her back sideways and walking in circles as she tried to deal with this pain.

Time passed and she started to rub her head on the floor, on a cushion, on the grass.  Anything.  We thought she just wanted to wipe something from her eye or was playing.  No, this was another sign of SM and the pain she was dealing with.

She would lick the air, walls, ground.  Another sign which at first we didn't pick up on.

Her walks lessened, her playfulness began to wain, and then... epileptic fits.  The scariest and most brutal thing to see in such a sweet and good natured dog.  At first her fits were short, easy to deal with, she didn't realise what had happened.  Then they worsened and her medication of Gabapentin three times a day was having a lessened effect.  Her six month check appointment was booked and we knew that the medication was going to have to be increased.  However she sadly didn't make it to that appointment.

On Friday 10th April Coco had a fit in the garden which took about 10 minutes for her to get back to normal.  It wiped her strength for the rest of the day but we made sure she was comfortable in her favourite bed and let her rest.

On Saturday 11 April Coco got up, had her medication and in true style followed me around the kitchen.  A couple of minutes later she was on her side and having another fit.  I was used to the drill and laid next to her so that she could see me as I held her side to let her know I was there and everything was fine.  My calming whisper of 'wes, wes, wes' was said in her ear which always calmed her down.  Then, her tail wagged, she blinked a few times and I started to sigh with relief that she was coming round.  Then, her head went back and she started another fit, as soon as this finished, another fit.  Her poor, innocent heart could not take anymore and my little Coco gave up her fight.

My call of 'where is she?' as I come home from work with hubby looking at her and saying 'Mummy's home', now goes unanswered.

The clock watching for her taking her medication stops us in our tracks.

The quiet turning of the lid of the biscuit barrel is no longer necessary and the tucking in and cuddle at bedtime is no longer a happy routine.

The walks either in the village or along her favourite track are now just shadows in our minds.

The coat, lead and harness are hung on her hook waiting for the word 'walkies' to be said again, but there is no furry body to fill them.

This little bundle of fur who came into our lives nine years ago and filled our hearts with so much love has now left us and taken our hearts with her.

Syringomyelia is a dreadful disease and strikes down so many Cavalier Kings Charles Spaniels.  As I said earlier I am not one to make my blog a shouting board but this disease is something that can be eradicated with a little common sense.  It just needs the right people to listen and the right people are the Kennel Club!

I have put in my side bar the symptoms of Syringomyelia (SM) for those who wish to read and let other dog owners be aware.  I didn't know anything about this disease until a lady in the vets said to me that her Cavalier used to do the air scratching that Coco was doing at the time.  She then told me about the disease and to look out for other signs.  So, look out for them, even if you don't own a Cavalier (other breeds get this too - and people!).  If you see any symptoms as you walk down the street with a dog that you have never met, let the owner know.  They may already have this in hand, but believe me, they will appreciate the recognition and your thoughtfulness.

If you have a Cavalier, or know of someone who has, I urge you to sign this petition.  If enough of us shout loudly enough, then over time, this disease can be simply eradicated by not breeding dogs that have this disease.  The painful torture that these timid beautiful dogs have to endure does not have to be necessary.


Also, over the time I have been helping Coco through this I have joined various Facebook Groups.  These groups have really helped me by not feeling alone and picking up little tips along the way.  You may want to join if you want some very helpful support or in fact give support to others.

Cavaliers are Special
Syringomyelia (SM) in Dogs a Place for Help and Advice or Just Chat Away
Cavalier Army Syringomyelia Group
Cavalier Kings Charles Spaniel Memories
Cavaliers Are Special Virtual Health March to the Kennel Club

Also, if you are on Twitter:

Cavaliers are Special
Cavalier Matters
Cavalier Health

Also, please watch this video from Cavaliers are Special, which gives a light hearted approach to SM:

Cavaliers are Special Video

My Coco will never ever be forgotten, her strength, courage and determination to have a normal, happy life was nearly achievable.  I want to make Coco's life and death have a productive outcome, to help others recognise the disease and spread the knowledge that is already out there and not being listened to.

If you are hurting as much as I am, I will leave you with some words that a friend of mine sent me.  Luke Smith who has a blog (here) he is not sure where they came from but they have given so much comfort to both me and others.

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt ...or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Cheryl Craggs's photo.

I will be putting the petition in my side bar to join Coco's picture and the symptoms of SM so that this is a permanent reminder to her and her fight.  I hope that after reading Coco's story and those on the Facebook/Twitter feeds that you will understand why I feel so strongly that this petition needs to be signed to make those that ignore this condition take notice.

I have also taken off my restrictions on commenting on my blog for this post, yes there will be the usual spammers who just get ignored and deleted, but I wanted to give enough opportunity for others to comment if they felt they needed support or to put their stories across.

I want Coco's life and death to mean something.  Please sign the petition for her memory and those who lost the fight due to the monetary gain of others and NOT the welfare of this breed.

Next week I will be back to my usual blogging self, but until then, thank you for listening to me and a cause that is now firmly embedded in my heart.

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