Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Riley had an MRI yesterday...

This is a hard entry for me to write. I will post what we wrote in a mass email we sent out last night. However, in thinking about how we want to proceed with things, we feel strongly that this website- which has always been about celebrating Riley- will continue to be the same. It will NOT become a medical chat board/update board, etc... Instead, we will be putting a link on here to another page which will have that information. But this is a "sacred space." This is Riley's page. This is about all things good and all thing Riley and it will remain that way. That said, here's what I emailed last night:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hi Everyone.

Please forgive the blanket email, but it's the quickest way to share the news with the people we love without feeling overwhelmed with the need to be on the phone with everyone about this.

It was three years ago next week that we last sent out an email like this. At that time, we shared the news of Phoebe's new diagnosis of Cushings Disease and our determination to not "fight it" but, rather, to shift our focus to maintaining her wellness. As I said in that email, "This may sound like semantics to some of you, but there is a deeper meaning behind this that many of you may appreciate." Well, it worked. We're now nearly 3 years into her treatment, she's healthier than ever-- getting older, mind you-- but she's totally controlled from a Cushing's Perspective. And over 50% of dogs with Cushings are gone within the first 2 years of diagnosis. Clearly, from surviving her IMHA as a puppy and now thriving in spite of Cushings Disease, Phoebe defies all statistical reference data.

We need some of that to rub off on her baby brother, Riley.

We have had serious concerns about Riley since he was a puppy. Specifically, we've been worried that he may have Syringomyelia (SM) which epidemic with the Cavalier King Charles Spnaiel breed. Our initial concerns were, admittedly, based on some very broad symptoms that are not uniquely specific to SM. We brought this up with our vet in NJ when he was a puppy and he poo-pooed it. When we switched Riley over to our old vet back in New York City last fall, we mentioned it to Dr. Mlekoday and she said (correctly) that the signs and symptoms of his "air scratching" and his extreme tenderness (that causes yelping) when touched under his arms and around his neck should just be presumed to be a tick unless (at some point later on) it is suddenly accompanied by pain. Well, it never has been until now. Of late, his scratching can go on for quite prolonged periods of time. It's totally maniacal behavior. Compulsive. Uncontrollable. But he's only 17 months old, and lots of behavioral quirks can go on until after he's two. So, really, there has constantly been this underlying belief of, "It's nothing and he'll grow out of it."

The tipping point was this past weekend. Ethan was sitting quietly on the couch, Riley was fast asleep next to him. All of a sudden, for no reason, he leaped up out of his sleep and started shrieking and yelping in pain. We couldn't calm him. He did it a second time later that night when sleeping next to Michael and then he started to favor his back left leg. All of this together triggered a gut instinct in Ethan and it made us very suspicious. (Ethan's side note: Call it clinical intuition, but my practice of podiatric medicine and surgery is -like most good clinicians- based on my gut feelings in many ways. My gut told me this was not good.)

We decided that, even though an MRI is phenomenally expensive, the cost of not knowing and not treating this early enough could be greater. So we called yesterday and scheduled him for the MRI today. We just came back from his MRI and he's resting comfortably at home. Sadly, my instincts were correct; Riley has Syringomyelia (SM). A pretty significant case of it, too. The lesion (syrinx) goes from the brain-stem/Cerebellum as far down as the MRI imaged (past C-6). More than likely, if we scanned him all the way down to the tip of his tail, there'd be more lesions, too. That's what the veterinary radiologist said.

Our vet is out of the office on Tuesdays so we will be speaking with her tomorrow and we have an appointment with her on Friday, unless she tells us to cancel it and just go directly to the Neurological Surgeon. We have a very fine one here in New York City and we would speak with him first before going elsewhere. I have been looking, though, at surgical specialists in SM in The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel around the country and there are quite a few, so we'll need to do our research before committing to anything. There are medications that we can use, though it seems more and more that they are about controlling symptoms and pain and they don't offer the sustained relief and prolonged "correction" that surgery can offer. Sadly, this is surgery on his brain and spinal cord, so the risks are very high. Again, the risk of doing nothing, is higher.

So, this is where we are at. When we have some more information, we'll share it...

Thanks for your love and support,

Ethan, Michael, Phoebe and Riley

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year, 2010!

We rang in the new year without much fanfare... the day was spent napping together on the couch. Riley had his annual physical last weekend and checked out 100% well and in great health. He's up to date on his vaccines, and life is good with him. at 17.4 lbs, he's looking more and more like his mom, these days... though the good ol' Yogi Bear personality is VERY much alive in him.

Happy 2010, Sir Riley, Lord of Essex!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Today our little boy turns 1 year old. That makes today the 10 month anniversary of him living with us. It's amazing how the time flies and how much he's grown- not just physically, but in his personality, too. Pics to follow...


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Riley is 11 months old!!!

This past Friday, July 24th, we went up to P-town (Provincetown, MA) for a week-long vacation. We rented a cottage and though it was a long 7 hrs car ride, Riley and Phoebe did great in the car!

Yesterday, Saturday the 25th, was Ethan's 38th birthday. It also happened to be Riley's 11 month birthday. To celebrate we went to Race Point Beach, at the Cape Cod National Seashore Park. This was the first time Riley saw sand or the ocean. And let me tell you, that ocean was COLD- 64˚ F!!! But we made it into the water and, in all, we had a great time.

Here's the video of the outing. WARNING: Riley did get attacked (unprovoked) as we were first going to the ocean. I had a hell of a time editing this video and couldn't edit this out. It's only about 10-15 seconds but it's more than a bit disturbing. Still, RILEY IS FINE and NOBODY WAS HURT. And, as you'll see, true to his great Cav nature, he just shook it off and continued to have a great first time at the beach. Click this link to watch it on YouTube:

Today, Sunday the 26th, is started off as a foggy (now rainy) day though the weather forecast/radar seems to imply this will be over before noon. We're having a lazy, rainy morning in the cabin piled up on the couch. Riley fell asleep on his toys:

Phoebe got jealous and so she came in on the action (little did she notice that wasn't a pillow she was laying on!)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Play Ball

Dad-E was playing ball with Riley in the yard today. Riley is very good at chasing his ball, catching not so much. But he has gotten very good at dropping the ball when we say, "drop it." It was great to watch Riley running like this. The weather has been so horrible, that he hasn't had much play time in the yard lately.

As you can see from this last photo, Riley was having a great time.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I am 10 months old now!

It's actually a week past the 10 month mark and Riley is just growing and growing! Michael took this photo of him in our backyard this evening. Michael was out taking photos of the flowers in our yard and He snapped this shot of Riley as he was walking around the swing. That inquisitive, gentle, all-knowing expression is the SOUL of Riley.

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's been a while

It's been a while since we last posted. I just noticed that the last post was from Friday, April 10th. "Good Friday". That was the day that Chandler (Riley's older brother) was in the hospital for his first of two major surgeries to try and remove the cancer that ravaged his body. It's been a hellish 2 months since then and our focus has been, understandably, on Chandler. Sometimes to the lack of attention on things like this blog about out little man, Riley.

Riley is nearly 10 months old and he's HUGE! His coat is really coming in all curly and wavy which is very odd for a Cavalier, but it's just like Chandler's was. I say was because, sadly, Chandler passed away last night at 4:46 pm. He lost his battle with Cancer and is now resting and at peace. Obviously, we're all very sad and we miss him so terribly. And we realize that this is so fresh and we're still in shock... I'm sure there's much more sadness and grieving to come. Even Riley has been a bit down today:

We're more grateful now than ever for Sir Riley, Lord of Essex. Of course he brings joy to our lives each day. But a big part of our consideration in bringing him into our family last fall was that a) we didn't want to face a situation where, with 2 older dogs, we would go from two to one and b) we wanted Riley to have time to really know Chandler and Phoebe and to take on aspects of their amazing personalities. And take it on he has.

Riley is a big chewer. Loves his chew toys and he is the only dog in 11 years who can outwit Phoebe for her chew toys. He loves to run and chase like her, too. And, like his older brother Chandler, he loves to lick, give kisses, and loves to be with you, preferably on your lap. He has Chandler's intelligence and calm nature, too. And, of course, like Chandler he's such a handsome boy!

So we're all feeling sad today and missing our Chan-man. But what's great is that he'll not only live on in spirit with us in our hearts and in our memories. Parts of him are very much alive in Riley and it's amazing to know that we'll have that to console us for years to come.