Ella was diagnosed with Syringomyelia and taught me more in her short life about how to live life to the fullest, love with all your heart, and learn from each other.

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.

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. http://sm.cavaliertalk.com/diagnosing/diagnosing/isthissm.html 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. : http://cavalierhealth.com/syringomyelia.htm#SM_in_Other_Breeds “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 http://fightforella.blogspot.com/2011/07/dogs-in-pain-its-in-pain-know-whats.html How did I know Ella had SM. http://fightforella.blogspot.com/2010/02/news.html 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. http://fightforella.blogspot.com/2010/04/there-is-no-cure-for-syringomyelia.html 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.