Friday, May 31, 2013

“The Little Cavalier that Could”- What does Fight for Ella Mean?

I did not know what love was, until the day Ella came into my arms.

I started this blog when I learned Ella had Syringomyelia. I had some awareness of the condition and mentioned to her vet my concerns but he kept ruling it out. This was over 3 years ago and many people had never heard of this condition. I was shocked when the neurologist said she had a severe case and he couldn’t tell me how long she had to live. It could be three months or much longer. I wanted answers. I wanted to know what to expect and the hard part is there is no way of knowing because it is not that simple. Three years later and there is better medical management but there are still a lot of things we don’t know. Like other health problems, progression can vary. Some may do well on certain medications and others not. It is so hard to know but that is exactly what I wanted and needed. I now know that the future is not predictable. It was not her SM (syringomyelia) that caused her to live a short life, but an obstruction. In the beginning the fight was about fighting for her life. I did not know how long she would be with me. I felt hopeless and the only thing I felt I could do was to write about her experience.

Why did I start this blog?-

I wanted raise awareness of the condition of Syringomyelia but later it became much more. I was so scared when I found out her condition and I felt that I spent too long going back and forth to the vet when she could have been treated much earlier. I felt if people had an awareness of the symptoms they would be able to treat their dog much earlier than I did and not have the frustration of continued vet visits. I am now glad that I did because it is filled with posts of my emotions good and bad that I can read over again. Even though I feel her at times still and think of her often, I will always have this piece of her and she will live on.

Why has it been so long since I have posted?


I have to think about this and it is hard to say but it is important. I don’t want to remember Ella by having Syringomyelia define her. This blog is dedicated to her fight and the majority of the posts are about her health. I feel health is very important but that is not what defined her. She was so much more. I have tears in my eyes writing these words. She was so special in many ways and she touched every person she met. I feel she was my angel but I could see how it would not just me who experienced her love. A friend said recently, “Ella did no wrong. No dog can compare to her”. I guess he did not remember the pee stains on his carpet when he said that. He also didn’t have a brand new pair of expensive shoes ruined during her puppyhood.

What does Fight for Ella mean Today?

"The Future is no Place to Place your Better Days
Dave Matthews Band

I wrote that I didn’t want Ella to be remembered for Syringomyelia but now looking back on things her strength and positive attitude. I think there is a lot I and others can learn from her experience. Learn about how you can be a positive aspect within the breed or to others. At the nursing home, I could see life come into others eyes the moment they touched her. She gave me strength but it really should have been me being strong for her. She was attacked by a dog, yet she was able to forgive. She continued to greet each person or dog with her wagging tail.

Try to enjoy each day you have with each other and realize they are walking beside you.

Most importantly, don’t let the hard times close you off to allowing others enter your life again. It was hard going through what I did with Ella but I now have Elton who is his own character with his own lessons to teach me.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Is it Allergies

Let me start by saying I think Elton is having allergy problems but it has me wonder at what point would you say see a neurologist? Everyone knows Ella's story of me calling crying to the vet to get referral to neurologist because I knew it wasn't allergies causing her problems. I now have a cavalier, Elton, that I really do think he has allergy problems. Part of me feels that vets don't know enough about SM and we need to raise awareness. Then the other part thinks sometimes people who are aware of SM can jump to the conclusion that scratching = sm when it could be other things.
I felt like I was starting over. Elton had already had an MRI and was diagnosed with mild CM and he had some hydrocyphelous but the way he was scratching at his ears made me go back to the vet. Let’s not forget that one of the first things to do is to rule out other things with your vet. You can go here and it gives you a step by step of what to rule out and to do. So here I was ruling out the ear infections and mites. Now we tried some allergy medicine and I am seeing a difference. I have been writing about SM for so long but Elton was diagnosed with mild CM. Do I think that he is symptomatic from this? Do I think some of his tail chasing and obsessive scratching is OCD or behavioral? It really is hard to not jump to other conclusions. I think he does have a little OCD but also allergies. I don’t think that his CM is symptomatic now. Here is what I would suggest to people. Get a journal or they even have apps on phones. Notice the frequency of symptoms and make a note of it. When did this happen, how long, what time was the last medication. I noticed that Elton was not scratching as much. He did start to scratch but it was getting close to time for his medication. I noticed that he was scratching when he got on my bed. Is he allergic to something in my comforter? All of these things are important. I am doing this for his allergies but I think those with CM or CM/SM dogs should do the same for those symptoms. I know it is hard to do but it having a dog that is not suffering is worth it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ella’s 1 Year Anniversary and CM/SM Awareness Event

I am so blessed to have loving friends on Facebook who put together a CM/SM Awareness Event on the anniversary of Ella’s death. It has been a very hard year but somehow knowing that her death brings awareness to this condition is somewhat of a comfort. Ella’s blog will be shared with a cavalier group on Facebook. What can I say to those that did not know Ella or do not know about CM or SM? I think the first thing is that Ella was brought to me during a time when I needed strength. We were inseparable. We came as a package and it was known that if Ella could not come then neither would I. That bond only got stronger when she got sick. I would do anything for her. I could not believe that even when she was in pain, her tail would not stop wagging. She would still want to comfort me even on that last day. I knew it was her time and her body was falling apart but she had a little bit of energy to come out in the grass with the sun shining on her, tail wagging. Now what about Syringomyelia? What is it that I learned the most? Chiari Like Malformation (CM or CLM but I say CM also called COMS but that is outdated) and Syringomyelia (SM) are extremely complex. No two dogs are alike and the more I learn the more questions I have. Syringomyelia is not just a Cavalier issue. I have shared the story of Winston the pug. There are several toy breeds that can get Syringomyelia. : “Other breeds known to be affected by Chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia include the Affenpinscher, Bichon Frisé, Boston terrier, Brussels Griffon (Griffon Bruxellois), bull terrier, Chihuahua, French bulldog, Havanese, King Charles spaniel (the English toy spaniel), Maltese terrier, miniature dachshunds, miniature and toy poodles, Papillon, Pomeranian, Pugs, Shih Tzu, Staffordshire bull terrier, and the Yorkshire terrier.” Then again this is a cavalier issue! Yes we know a lot more because of research but it still is a problem in this breed so it must be talked about. An MRI is the only way to diagnose CM or SM. There is a lot of focus on SM but CM can also cause pain. Some cavaliers with CM only are symptomatic while others with both CM and SM are not? That is why it’s important to understand when your dog is in pain How did I know Ella had SM. There are many symptoms but looking back on it Ella didn’t scratch much which is what most people think of when they think of SM. What I saw was the pain in her eyes. She also did a lot of head shaking and had some quirky behaviors. What one thinks is funny or a quirk is really a sign of something else going on. There is no cure for Syringomyelia but I do know of Cavaliers that have lived long lives with their symptoms being controlled with surgery and or medication. I can’t really sum up my blog in one post for this awareness event but I can say that I am glad I wrote this blog and hope that in some way it has helped at least one person who is or will be going through this also.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Facebook- The Good and Bad When Getting A Cavalier

When buying a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, you need to do your homework. You want the best chances at getting a healthy, happy puppy and there are some wonderful breeders out there that are doing what they can to better the breed. Facebook makes the search easier. I am a member of many groups and have met a bunch of great Cavalier lovers as friends. Of course some are breeders and post their pictures of the beautiful puppies that were born. I can see people fall in love with the pictures and all the questions and homework are forgotten.

Here are some of the things to look for as far as health testing goes. Make sure they are able to provide you with certificates!

1) Are both parents over 2 1/2?
*Mitral Valve Disease breeding protocol requires both parents be over 2 1/2 and grandparents over 5, examined by a board certified Cardiologist and free of a heart murmur

2) An MRI on both parents and have followed the recommended Breeding Protocol?

3) Eye testing by an ophthalmologist on both parents. They should have CERF certificates

4) Hip Displaysia- Both parents' hips should have been x-rayed after age 2 years and cleared of HD by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).

5) Patellar Luxation- Both parents' patellas should be examined and cleared by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).

The Canine Health Information Center has specific tests to qualify for a certificate. A certificate is not mandatory but it shows that the breeder has done the minimum tests that are recognized for this breed. It also is a database you can search which can help you in your search. According to the ACKCSC,

"Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Requirements
To qualify for CHIC, Cavaliers must be screened for Hip Dysplasia (OFA, Penn HIP or OVC),
Cardiac (OFA - exam performed by Board Certified Cardiologist. Recommended Annually.),
Patellar Luxation (OFA), and
have a CERF eye examination. Although it is not required, it is recommended that an initial CERF exam be performed at 8-12 weeks, with a follow up exam once the dog reaches 12 months of age, annual exams thereafter until age 5, and every other year until age 9."

OK now for the good. Facebook brought me Elton. Without meeting a friend on Facebook, I would have never known about her fostering Elton and I would be without this great Cavalier that I adopted. Also Facebook has been able to start groups when dogs are lost and people ban together for their return. I have seen so much good also.

There is a lot more in buying a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I really like this blog post.

I also like the brochures the Cavalier Fanciers of Southern Ontario did.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ella, An Inspiration

I just wrote a blog post about blame and effort and I want to share my inspiration, Ella. No matter what she felt she was a true defination of the breed and a comforter. I would sing, "You are My Sunshine" to her because she was. She is the one who brought me out of a depression and she just made things better. She did that with her visits to the nursing home and just by passing people on the street. They say Cavalier King Charles Spaniels originally were "Comforter Spaniels" and that she was.

She was in pain yet she knew how to make others feel better. She did not blame anyone but kissed them to make them feel better. I never met anyone who didn't fall in love with her. I truly believe she brought me Elton because she knew I needed to share the love. I talk about Ella on this blog but she was an inspiration to me. It is coming up on a year since her death and I feel several years down the road, I will still be thinking of her and talking about this very special Cavalier that was sent to me from Heaven. Her time on Earth was short but she taught me more in those few years than a lifetime. She taught me how to love someone (even a dog) more than themselves, forgiveness, things that really are important, she gave me friends I couldn't imagine having.


Blame and Effort/ Enjoy the Day and Do

"A man can get discouraged many times, but he is not a failure until he begins to blame somebody else and stop trying." John Burroughs

I like this quote because I feel it is so easy to blame others and even yourself and with Chiari Like Malformation and/or Syringomyelia it is so easy to get discouraged and stop trying.

When Ella was first diagnosed with CM/SM, I asked myself questions that I am sure many others do as well. Why her/me?, Why didn't the Vet notice earlier?, What did the breeder know? (However I am very lucky to have read where it had a letter from Ollie's breeder explaining their point of view).  Did I miss any symptoms and should have caught this earlier?

Then after I went through the many questions on whether or not to have surgery and what type, Did I do the right thing? Then I blamed myself when she developed scar tissue and I wondered what would have happened if I went with something else.  Although it is important to ask questions when deciding what surgery, all of this blame did not matter.  It is now almost a year since she has been gone from me and I am so very glad that I did not spend too much time blaming others but enjoying each day. All of that did not matter but I still think about all the others with these conditions everyday. I read forums, try to read research (even if a lot is over my head) and I know I am not doing enough.

Where is my effort going to?

I felt the only way to help or do anything was to share Ella's story but now that she is gone, what am I doing? It feels like nothing. There are some wonderful people like Sheena Stevens who started
FOETAL TISSUE RESEARCH.  This has caused some great break throughs. There of course is Sandy Smith who wrote For the Love of Ollie. There is Mary Beth Squirrell who blogs about her cavalier Mylee with symptomatic Chiari Malformation on her blog There are so many more but a lot of these people never say anything but just do.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Embee Cavaliers: Beating the odds - Mitral Valve Disease

Embee Cavaliers: Beating the odds - Mitral Valve Disease: Mitral Valve Disase or MVD is the leading cause of death in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Almost all of our beloved dogs will eventua...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Seeing Elton Run Brings a Smile and Tears

Recently, I've been having a blast with Elton. We have discovered the parking garage at my apartment is the perfect backdrop to the city skyline and also is prime property for ball chasing.  He has quite the personality.

I have been sad today because I think of Ella. I think of how she loved chasing the ball and the day I threw the ball to have her just stare in the distance, frozen and unable or not willing to run. I am thinking of the dog stroller in my closet. Would she be in the stroller, in my arms? I think about how nice it has been to have Elton next to me snuggled up on the sofa or in the bed letting me touch him. How I longed for just a few minutes of Ella to be close to me but she didn't like to be touched anymore. I would be on the sofa and she on the top and I would just have my arm stretched just to touch her and be connected.

I will leave work and wipe my tears and take Elton to the top of the roof tonight. I will throw the tennis ball and watch him run but I will imagine Ella in the wind next to him running just as fast and smiling with me.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

but mommy, i'm special too

When I was thinking of adopting elton, I was scared that no matter how perfect or special another cavalier was, they would never be as close to me as ella was. Would that be fair? Would I be able to give another cavalier enough love? I figured that there is always a special cavalier or dog that no dog or anyone will replace, but that should not mean that I will never have another.

Elton looks at me and his say, I need you too. I cry thinking about why have I not given up the fight for SM, when I have a little boy that gives me so much joy but he needs me in a different way.  I took him to the vet last Friday because it has concerned me about him chasing his tail. Yes, some think this is a cute quirk but I'm starting to feel sad. Is he still anxious with the adjustment? Have I not made the transition easy or have I not given him the classes and attention that he needs because he needs?

I decided to get a referal to a behavioralist. He is one of the best in the country. I think it would be good to talk to him to see if his behavior is related to OCD. I don't think I'm over reacting but I want to give him my all. I've been sad lately. He needs more activity than ella did but have I not gone on enough walks? I need to adjust things for him.

I have been talking about obedience training and getting involved with activites like agility and other things, but classes have just come out with a fall schedule.

I am sad because some family meet elton. They said that ella was just so special. I know she was but so is elton. He is different but he has his own special qualities.  I know I felt the same way but I started to get upset. Elton isn't ella but he is a ball of fire. Ella was extremely docile and inactive but a lot of that had to do with her SM. Elton needs more attention, stimulation and playtime. He can't sit at the front of the vet's office like ella but he can run, jump, dance and is a monkey.

My nephew saw his special quality when he stayed with them recently. He was so happy because he taught him a trick. He said he taught him to dance. He said he has to do it in the morning because he is "more wild". He could not say elton but called him "hellton". Yet he is just active and wants to play. He would run outside and go to the birdfeeder to make them all flock. He loves playing tug of war. He does all of these cute things but is never "bad". He just wants to play.

I am worried about his behavior a little bit because he growled and I don't know if something is going on. So my little munchkin is special too. He also has stolen my heart and I know we will learn together how to adjust to each other. He has made his place here and has his favorite toys and his own mark here. I couldn't imagine my home without him.

I miss my cavalier friends that I got to know because of ellas SM, but maybe I will meet others that can help me with learning how to train and what fun things we can do or I can to help stimulate his wild, active personality.

About Me

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The moment I first held Ella, my world changed. She has touched so many people giving love as a therapy dog but now it is time to give back. No matter how hard she tries to give, her eyes show sadness and pain.