Sweetbriar Dreams

So where shall we go on our journey today?

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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  1. This is such a brave and thoughtful post about your own and Coco's difficulties and the problems that she had to suffer with. I hope that it brings awareness to others and that it will help to ensure that other dogs and owners do not have to suffer in the way that you have had to. I haven't e-mailed again because I didn't want to keep bothering you, but I am thinking of you and sending all best thoughts and hugs and love. xx

  2. Oh, Chel, the tears are flowing....having just lost my Champ, I am still in mourning myself, still finding his toys in the grass, thinking for a brief moment he is still going to greet me in the morning....It is wonderful that you are turning your tragedy into something positive by educating people on this dreadful disease. Your brave little Coco's suffering will help others to recognize this disease and hopefully bring about much needed research. Sending hugs and healing. xo Karen

  3. Petition signed! I sit here with tears in my eyes. What a terrible disease. I pray that the breeding will stop. I can't imagine being so money hungry that I would breed dogs that I knew had this terrible disease to pass on to their puppies. So inhumane. I hope your heart is slowly healing my friend.

    Hugs and Prayers,


  4. Chel, as you know, we lost our Rosie - also a Cavalier King Charles - in July, 2013. I am crying all over again because, reading the symptoms you described, sounds exactly like what Rosie would do. We were told by the vet that she had a heart condition - which I'm sure she did - but she clearly had so much more wrong with her too. I'm off to sign that petition now. Let's hope somebody sits up and pays attention!! Hugs to you and your family.

  5. It's taken me twice to respond because I've been through this too. That was a well written, heart wrenching article. I still have so much pain from losing my Maxie (Miniature Schnauzer died 04 Sep. 2013) that I really could sympathize. She also died from an inbred disease - Cushings Disease (affects the skin).
    Anyway, I signed. And I prayed. Prayed that the Kennel Club would stop encouraging breeding birth defects into certain breeds. And pray that the pain for both of us will ease as we remember the happy memories. It got so bad for me for awhile I had quit blogging but I'm back now. Hope your days get brighter and easier as time passes. Remember that you are loved.
    I'm so sorry you've had to go through this but thank you for sharing your journey. Hope you and your family have a blessed day.

  6. My heart breaks for you! I get it completely. You are so brave to post so many pictures. Whenever I come across pictures of our dog Riley that we lost last fall it still gives me a start every time and I have a hard time looking at them still. Sending you love <3

  7. I am so sorry for your loss of your cute dog Coco. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

  8. Oh hon, I'm so sorry! My dogs are eight years old. And I just had Abi at the vet early this morning. I have been comforted by "The Rainbow Bridge" many times. Here's what I do when I lose a pet, something to keep me going and still let me grieve. I plant a little garden in their memory, and use the Victorian flower and herb meanings to define my feelings. Such as rosemary for remembrance, etc. You can google it if you want to do it. It can be a container, an area of ground, etc. And that's where I go to pay tribute to them and feel like I'm kind of with them. I like to put a place to sit there. It is cathartic for me and gives my mind something to think about.

  9. Just a year ago, I was were you are now...alone without my baby. We were together 24/7. But his passing led me to Charlie, the very next day...37 hours later, there was someone else in my arms. That led to fostering other babies until their forever homes could be found. God puts his amazing creatures in our lives for a reason. His special ones, in those he can trust. I have written down the name and symptoms, and make others aware. Thank you for sharing and posting this important information. I actually have a human friend who lives with something like this and they have found that one of her daughters has it, too. I know it is painful for her. I am so sorry for your loss, but relieved that Coco is now pain free and whole again and waiting for you, tail wagging. Bodies can die, but love never does.

  10. Dearest Chel - I well know this pain. We had a pure bred pointer, the most lovable of dogs, who died of cancer and in great pain. We were told that the problem was with the breeding. I don't know. I only know that it took a long time to recover, but you do recover. And then you can think back and remember the fun and the love. My thoughts are with you.

  11. I am SO sorry I understand. my own 'Emma Rose' left us last year in August. I felt so alone during the day... she wasn't there, on her bed, it is hard. thank you for your words. take care of yourself.

  12. I was devastated when my dog died, and so unprepared, I took home to the vets as he wasn't well and he never came home. He was 'riddled' with cancer. I do often wonder if there were signs I missed of him being in pain but he was a typical Labrador and always seemed so happy The weeks after were terrible for me, I used to stay away from the house as much as I could because I couldn't bear the silence. And people were always asking if we would get another dog. Like he was just so replaceable, I wanted to scream at them. Big hugs to you and your family xx

  13. Dear Chel, I don't comment often, but follow and read always. My son and his wife have two darling spaniels, and my dearest departed father-in-law had one as well. Yes, the breed are plagued with health issues, but remain valued for their devotion, and sweet temperament. I pray that science finds a way to ease their pain. My thoughts are with you as you remember Coco, and the value she had in your lives. Mimi xxx

  14. My heart aches for you, Chel. Thank you for sharing Coco's story and raising awareness of this awful disease. It's so, so hard to watch our beloved furry babes when they are not well, and the gap they leave is immense. Coco will always have a special place in your heart, treasure the precious memories. Sending you love & hugs as you grieve. Love Gilly xxx

  15. I'm sorry you all had to deal with this difficult illness. She had a lovely life in a loving family. I wish you all well. X

  16. Chel, I am so very sorry. My heart hurts for you! I know exactly what you are going through. The emptiness surrounding one after losing such a true companion. So very sorry! I cried reading this. It is filled with love! I am sure your sweet Coco is watching over you. She is there waiting for you! I know she will be fine, she is in good company! She had such a loving home - she will always have that! And so will you. It will get better. Take your time to grieve. You need that! I am off to sign the petition. A friend of mine has two of those beauties, I hope she will not have to go through the same thing! Feel hugged and know you are not alone! xxx

  17. So sorry to read this. What a sweet little friend you have lost. Wishing you much healing xx

  18. So sad to read about the loss of your dear little dog Coco. It is such a sad time when you lose a beloved pet, everywhere you turn there are memories of them and an emptiness in your home. It is right that you are highlighting this illness so that something can be done to avoid it continuing in this adorable breed of dog.
    Sending love.
    Helen xox

  19. I am so, so, so, so, sorry. I know words really don't help. Sending you lots of hugs and love. Blessings sweet friend.

  20. This is beautiful Chel, I hope writing it helped with your grieving. It is devastating when a pet dies, when my last one died the house was so empty, there was no one waiting to greet me when I arrived home from work. When each one died I buried my two dogs and a cat in the garden of my old home, and planted appropriate shrubs - an Olearia (Daisy bush) for my Boxer named Daisy, a winter flowering Witch Hazel because Max died in November and the rose named Peace for my darling little cat. Coco had a caring family, and, apart from her illness she was a happy little dog. She will be remembered with love.

  21. Chel, it's such a devastating loss. How blessed your Coco was to have spent her life in the care of such a loving "Mummy" as you.

  22. What lovely memories you have of Coco and you have written about her here with much thought and love. I especially like the last but one photo of Coco with a smile on her face! That's so nice of you to want to help other owners of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. It is a great pity that the way these lovely animals have been bred is mostly responsible for their health problems.

  23. Irresponsible breeders making money from animals. I hate it and greyhound racing and horse racing (although horses are much better cared for).
    Chel I thought you might like this poem from North West English Springer Spaniel Rescue-author unknown, but it makes me think of all my beautiful pets waiting for me at Rainbow Bridge:
    We have a secret you and I,
    That no-one else shall know,
    For who but I can see you lie
    Each night in fire glow?
    And who but I can reach
    My hand before we go to bed,
    To feel the living warmth of you
    And touch your silken head?
    And only I walk woodland paths
    And see ahead of me,
    Your small form racing with the wind,
    So young again and free.
    And only I can see you swim
    In every brook I pass,
    And when I call no-one but I
    Can see the bending grass.

  24. My heart is aching for you, Chel. Losing Coco has been devastating for you and there's no wondering why...your pictures say it all. It's heartbreaking that she had these terrible seizures and that you had to see your pup in agony, but that's what we have to do, be there with them when they are in pain. We do the same with Milo when he has a seizure.

    I read the comments, too. It makes me feel not so alone that others have been through losing a pet. I pray this has helped you in your grief. And I thank you for your kind thoughts on Milo and his upcoming surgery. I wish we were closer in miles, we could each use a hug!

    Jane xx

  25. I thought of you often during the week whe my cats were coming home. It was such a lucky thing that Coco came to your home where she could find love, hapiness and support in her hard times.

  26. That is just amazing, to express the depth of your feelings in this way. I have cried with you and for you having lost my little boy aged just 8 years old to MVD. My love and thoughts are with you. I still hold Harvey's collar to my face so I can smell his scent that still lingers. The tears fill my ears and I want to scream out "why did you leave us", "why were you taken from us". I know the answers to these questions in my mind but it doesn't make the loss of my first ever dog and my beautiful soul mate any easier. The petition is signed by myself and many others signed in memory of Harvey. We will get there in the end!! Take good care of yourselves, I am so sorry for your loss. Rebecca xx

  27. I thought in you this week after read your post about Coco.
    I understan why you love her so much.
    Was a really cutie dog.
    My Mouska (our female dog) is adorable but always I think if she is sick?? We never know.
    In part is because our Rex die about a year.
    Ares is different is a crazy and make his life.
    I think Coco was blessed to have a lovely mom like you.
    A big hug dear!

  28. Signed the petition. Our daughter was fond of King Charles Spaniels, we have advised her not to take one because we knew about this desease.
    I know the poem 'Over the rainbowbridge' too. I cannot read it without crying.

  29. That poor little darling...it's inhuman for any reputable person to continue to breed them if this is a problem. I'm signing the petiton also...and shocked, and saddened that any organization allows this to happen.

    My heartfelt condolences to you and your family.


  30. Thanks for sharing this Chel. My sister had one of these wee dogs and they all loved him to bits.
    Wishing you all better days and one day in the future a meeting again at the Rainbow Bridge.


  31. Dear Chel, I have signed the petition, and I hope that it will help through scanning, that breeding the Cavaliers with the disease will stop! Such a heartbreaking news ... and loss for you and your family! Lots of love from Nina

  32. Chel, So sorry hearing about your loss. Coco was a beautiful dog and wonderful member to your family. My thought and prayers are with you and your family.

  33. Hi Chel,
    I know how important this is. I am very proud of you for taking this on, especially, during a time of grief.

  34. This is such a worthwhile thing to do Chel especially when you are coping with the grief of losing CoCo. I've signed the petition as it is never right to allow imposed pedigree breed standards to be at the expense of an animal's health.

    Seizures in a beloved animal are horrible to deal with and if she was having repeat seizures then your heart is in your mouth wondering when they will stop. My last cat was epileptic and it was scary dealing with it and seeing her post-ictal and wandering around in a daze. You've been immensely brave and a wonderful dog mum. The breeding happened before you got CoCo but she had the very best of care and was loved right to the end and for that you must take credit. The loss is brutal especially the way she went but her beloved human was there making her passage as comfortable as it could be and knowing she was adored. My love and prayers are with you.

  35. Dear Chel, you have all my sympathy,,we lost our Springer `Spaniel many many years ago now, but can still remember the emptiness and grief which followed his passing. This condition is so cruel, and I will certainly research and sign the petition. `We never really expect it to happen to OUR dog, do we? Kindest thoughts to you and your family Lynnexxxx

  36. I've signed the petition. She was lucky to have you as her "mum" as you did everything you could for her. The rainbow bridge story is lovely - emotional but uplifting at the same time xx

  37. Hello Chel, I am so sorry for your loss of Coco.. I will sign the petition and totally agree that the dogs should be checked before they are bred.. How sad for the dogs and their owners.. It seems almost cruel.. I know how I felt when my Goldie Girl crossed the rainbow bridge.. Sending my prayers and hugs to you!

  38. Still thinking of you very much during this time! It's so good of you to put Coco's life to good cause (above and beyond obviously being a wonderful pet). It must be a struggle to love a carefully-bred breed such as the sweet Cavalier but have to deal with the genetic repercussions of overbreeding. It doesn't have to be that way, and I wish all future cavaliers good health and long, pain-free lives!

  39. So sorry. Sweet Coco was so loved. Thanks for sharing your sorrow.

  40. Hello sweet dear friend -- sorry for my delay in getting word back to you.. -- you know I have a King Charles Cavalier as well and his name Toby.. I know you will miss all these little things for sure. It's sad to read the sad history of what Coco has gone through- so sorry. You are very dear and I sadden for you cause they are the best dogs breed ever - EVER!
    May tomorrows get easier to deal with... hugs..

  41. I am so sorry, Chel. These sweet creatures take a big chunk of our hearts with them when they leave. Good for you for taking on the cause. It's a wonderful, lasting tribute to your sweet Coco.

  42. Oh Chel, what sad news about Coco. We have a King Charles Cavalier and it's amazing how quickly they become part of the family. Ours literally follows us everywhere and is happiest when sat on our laps or in bed with us. Like you, we did as much research as we could before we bought her, but sadly you never can tell. The photos of your little lady are lovely xx

  43. Just thinking about you today, praying you are well. xx

  44. I am so sorry to come over to your blog and discover your last few posts - what a terrible disease that is. A dreadful thing to happen to Coco and your family. I hadn't heard of this before so at least the word has been spread a bit through this, not that that is really a 'plus side' in this situation. Hugs.

  45. A moving post, Chel - thank you for sharing your memories of little Coco and for highlighting this awful disease. I hope that with time the pain will ease and you will be able to remember all the happy times you spent together.
    Cathy x

  46. I'm so sorry to hear about your Coco. She's a cutie and will forever will be in your hearts. As I was reading and looking at pictures of Coco I felt a knot in my throat. All furries does have your heart. Hugs to you Chel. Love, Pingxoxo

  47. So sorry to read this. A pet is part of the family and to lose a member of the family is so hard. Thinking about you xxx

  48. My crazy poodle (cavoodle) is part King Charles Cavalier, he has those adoring eyes of Coco. I would be devastated like you if anything happened to him and so I have signed the petition, added to Twitter and Google+. None of this will bring your dear Coco back but knowing that you are helping raise awareness and hopefully make some changes to Kennel Club policy will, I hope be some solace.


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