In Praise of Elder Dogs

This blog is created in celebration of the elder dogs, of any breed, who've touched our hearts. You are invited to add your own reflections, or, if you wish, track the progress of your own elder dogs. ("Elder," BTW, is defined here as 10 years or more, except in breeds known for shorter lifespans, such as the Great Dane.) Send your stories and photos to me at branta(at)

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Location: Hunt, Texas, United States

I've been privileged to share my life with five unforgettable Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. This blog was inspired by Cooper, my first, whose indominatable bright spirit triumphed over his limitations. Every day of his life, till the very end, he woke joyously, happy to greet the day. I would wish the same for all of us!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Cubbison Hairy-Bear, at the Bridge

Cubby wasn't an elder, but one who died much too young. Thanks to Karen S. for sharing his story.

I had a Cavalier die during a seizure. Cubby was only three (almost four). He had his first seizure in late October in 2002, and died while seizing the following January 7, so he did not live with the condition long. The vet, after a few seizures, put him on potassium bromide. He still seized every couple of weeks. He would usually seize late at night. I would watch his head go back and body stiffen when it was beginning. Then, when it was over, he would pace. We were told not to worry, that he would live a long life in spite of the condition. I could tell he felt poorly near the end. I did not notice any head rubbing, though.

One thing our vet gave us was valium. She said it would immediately relax him and stop the seizure. It was a liquid in a needle that we were to squirt in his mouth when the seizure began. The first time we used it, it seemed like a blessing. The seizure was shortened. The second time, I was concerned: He seemed blind. He would walk (pace), but would walk into walls. Very sad. It relaxed him so much that his legs would splay out and he’d go through the walking motions, and looked like a turtle upside down.

We used it the third time on the morning he died. I think he was dead before we got the valium into him.

We were up around 5:00 a.m., drinking coffee, and he came over to me and wanted to be held. I could tell he did not feel well. I picked him up and he settled on my lap, then gave a pathetic little whimper/cry, looking at me. He was having pain. Then the seizure began and I picked him up and took him to the sofa, yelling to hubby to get the valium. But the valium came rolling out of his mouth, because he was dead. The only positive thing was that it was super quick. That was the bad thing too, because it was such a shock to us, to have him living, then dead in the space of 30-45 seconds.

I have no idea if he had a tumor, or Syringomyelia (SM). He certainly had no symptoms of SM prior to the seizures.

I know this is a gut-wrenchingly emotional time for you. My concern for Cubby was such that I thought I’d go nuts. Having a dog with seizures, but needing to be away from home from time to time was very hard on me. My heart was always with him. I think from reading, that you’re able to be home with Cooper and Tessie. If so, you’re fortunate, as are they.

We did not expect Cubby to die, and had given no thought to burial. After he had died, I put him in his crate (with the top off), and posed him, and took pictures. I caressed him and “made sure he was dead.” It was such a precious time, and I am grateful to have the memories. I guess we spent about two hours with him. Then, because we were in shock and didn’t really know our options, we drove him to the vet's office for “disposal.” If I had it to do over again, he would be cremated, and I would keep his ashes. I had never had to deal with a deceased dog until that day.

I hope something in what I’ve written will stir up some thoughts or insights that will help during this trying time.

--Karen & Regis Heartwarmer - Cubbison Hairy-Bear, at the Bridge


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