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January 2014

Don't Stop Believin'

This is Siouxsie.
Since a very young age, she has been dealing with a myriad of genetic defects. I got her from a breeder at 8 weeks and after just a few days with her, I could tell something was very wrong.
My original vet for her optimistically gave her 6 months at most to live.
Siouxsie has been diagnosed with SM (syringomyelia), scoliosis, a severe heart murmur, minor dysplasia, and all of the related symptoms because of these health issues- have been very hard on her. A lot of expense went into just figuring out what was wrong with her before we could even get to the business of trying to help her.
The breeder I got her from wanted her euthanized when I had her vetted and the results came back. She wouldn't give me a refund or a replacement puppy unless she received a death certificate for Siouxsie. I can see now how she might feel that way...
The attending vet gave her no more than 6 months to live without having to consider humane euthanization because of how quickly she was developing issues. I, for quite possibly selfish reasons at that point, decided that I was NOT going to just give up on this puppy.
I had 6 Cavaliers of my own then, and had raised 3 litters, so I thought for sure I could figure this out and fix this dog.
By 3 months of age, Siouxsie was nearly horseshoe shaped and could not bend her spine. I left her attending vet and took her to 2 specialists who also discovered that her juvenile heart murmur had not lessened and she was exhibiting CM/SM symptoms as well.
I thankfully found a good canine chiropractor and confided in a friend who taught me massage regimens to share with her to help her spinal fluid blockages and the scoliosis pain and well as to help her range of motion. This friend later taught me acupressure and recommended that I look into acupuncture as well. I will never be able to express enough gratitude to her for her knowledge, support & guidance, and for not judging me or expressing opinion when she may well have felt I should just let Siouxsie go.
By 6 months of age, her syringomyelia had already began to show aggressive signs which is very early for that disease to be that symptomatic. After her second MRI, the attending vet stated again that I ought to not consider prolonging euthanization for fear that her condition would only worsen. But I was gambling on the hopes that since the SM disease was then quite shadowy and often misunderstood, that I could still utilize the curve and get her well.
I spent a lot of my time educating myself on practicing massage, acupressure and eventually sharing Reiki with her several times a week. She was always my practice dog for new things I would learn about; flopping over on her side as soon as I walked up to her- asking for help- and I owe my initial interest in learning more methods of medical and supportive animal care solely to having her in my life.
I cannot imagine the pain she dealt with on her bad days, but when she had good days, she greeted those with great exuberance, a swooshy butt and a never-ending affinity for FOOD. On the bad days, she was quiet, symptomatic and tired. On those days she got extra massage, heat packs/cold packs, and added herbals.
Within a year's time and with regular care, her spine straightened until she had only minimal muscular tension and curvature across her left shoulder. As her growth slowed & her adult structure came together, her neck and ear scratching, fly biting, and star gazing lessened considerably. Her SM symptoms subsided and she had far more good days and far less bad days. Her range of motion was remarkably better and I could see her personality start to really come out from under the veil that her pain had been hiding.
Over the years she remained my massage partner, my Reiki and meditation partner and my reminder that as a breeder, I had a responsibility to never give up on a dog or to not remember for even a second that every pup I bred never really stopped being a member of my extended family. She never gave up on me and I never gave up on her.
Today Siouxsie turned 8 years old.
She still has bad days, but when she does, she flops on her side and asked for me to help her. And I do, and she helps me, too.
In honor of her pain, her healing, her journey, and for all she taught me, Siouxsie will be my hands on dog for all of the instructional photos in my Canine Massage Therapy book and its accompanying videos. I thought it was only fair that in honor of her memory, whenever SHE decides to take her light to another place, she help others here to better care for their pets and maybe to show them that just about anything is possible if you try hard enough.