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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Saturday, 11 April 2015

My Darling Coco

It is with an incredibly heavy heart that I have to type out these words.  Over the last couple of years I have mentioned my darling little King Charles Cavalier Coco, who recently was diagnosed with Syringomyelia which brings on convulsions and pain.  She has been a permanent fixture on my side bar and that photo has made me smile so much.  She has been a faithful companion, a comedian, a confidant and incredible friend.  This morning she was a usual self, happy to see me come down the stairs and get her medication but she then started convulsing and within minutes was taken from me.  I can't describe the words I am feeling right now so will just leave you with the last photo I took of her two days ago when she was playing hide and seek.

Understandably I will be taking a blogging break for a little while, but in the meantime, give your furry friends a meaningful hug, you never know when they will be taken from you.

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Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Capturing a Moment in Time - Holborn Viaduct

A camera card is such a wonderful thing.  No longer worrying about whether there is enough film.  No longer checking that the subject is just perfect before clicking for that one and only shot.  However, the down side... why take 10 photos when 303 will do!!  Yes, the last trip to London shocked me when I got back and the amount of photos that were taken.  303 useable photos (there was double that before I started deleting!).

For our trip to the Museum of London, we got off at Holborn Station and decided to walk to St Pauls.  This was mainly so I could be quietly selfish and enjoy walking through the streets without being pulled and pushed around on the tube.  

There are certain places in London that are an absolute joy to walk around at the weekend as they are practically deserted.  Holborn is one of them.  The old and new are happily married here and I just love to see how the modern buildings have quietly shuffled up close to the old buildings and enhanced them, along with helping with their preservation.  We were just passing through, but when I looked through the camera card, I felt that this moment in time warranted its own blog post.  The reason?  Well just this shot!  

Isn't it amazing that with a click of the camera you capture something that just inspires you.  When I captured this building, I was really excited with the old building, Sixty London (Amazon Headquarters) and old chimney pots in the distance.  

Sixty London is an amazing modern building (which was described as a building of razors by Miss Teen) on Holborn Viaduct .  However, the old looking building was where my curiosity lay though with its restored stonework and the beautiful red lamps outside and iron work.  On the four corners of the viaduct are these particular memorials (which after researching them I understand to be step-buildings as their stairs link Farringdon Street to the Holborn Viaduct).  This one has Sir Hugh Myddleton above the North East door - Sir Hugh was a goldsmith and entrepreneur from Wales in the 1500's.  The original building was demolished after World War II due to the Blitz damage, however here it is back to its former glory made with Portland stone and the intricate carvings in place once again.

Amazon's Headquarters, even though dark on the outside, is a beautiful modern building of glass complete with some quirky curves to keep with the rule of being able to view St Pauls.  The step-building should look out of place, but it contrasts perfectly and shows that the old and new can look beautiful side by side.

On the North West corner is the Sir William Walworth step-building and behind this another modern building containing offices and shops cuddling up to its corners.  Sir William was Lord Mayor twice in the 14th Century and a distinguished member of the Fishmongers Guild, where his sword is displayed at the Fishmonger's Company.

To me this is the reason I love London.  The eccentricities of the buildings and the pockets of time all captured and living next to each other.

Behind the South West corner where Fitz Eylwin is immortalised (the first Mayor of London), lies a busy worksite which no doubt will join the other corners of modern architecture enhancing this particular step-building.

The Viaduct also has four ornate bronze statues depicting the fine arts, agriculture, commerce and science.  Behind the statue of Agriculture stood the last step-building on the South East corner - a memorial to Sir Thomas Gresham, who worked for King Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.

This walk of just a few metres above Farringdon Street made me feel uplifted and truly inspired.  The brightly painted ironwork against the white Portland stone was striking and I was lucky enough to come across a website by Patrick Baty here which shows the layers of paint through the decades and some historical facts which I found really interesting.

Even though our visit to this tiny little corner of London was just a walk through on our way to St Pauls and London Wall, the visual splendour will remain with me always.  

The camera card captures moments that make us smile, but sometimes just clicking away and then coming home you realise that that moment can teach you so much.  Next time I am here I will take more detailed shots for the memory books!

After another short walk we were playing Peek a Boo with St Pauls... but that's for the next blog post.

I hope you enjoyed this moment in time and that your holidays were full of capturing moments.

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