On Saturday, October 25, 2008, Michael and I flew down to Fort Lauderdale, rented a car, drove up to Lake Worth to get our new Puppy. He was with Juli Drago of Coosa Creek Cavaliers which just happens to be all of a mile and a half from The Fountains; where Michael's grandparents had their winter condo that he visited annually throughout his childhood.
You see, I've wanted to have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel for a very long time. When I adopted my first dog, Blackie, he was a pound rescue from the ASPCA. When I went to get him a companion dog, Phoebe, I kept to the idea of a similar kind of mixed-breed dog, similarly sized and also a pound rescue (though this time from the CACC which is the KILL-Shelter in Manhattan). In some sense, I feel like I've "done my part" and now I was ready to support responsible breeding. So, a number of years ago, I made up my mind that whenever I was going to have another dog, it would be a Cav. I researched breeders around the US and in Ireland. So many puppy-mills! So much irresponsible breeding. So very sad. ( Incidentally, Michael had his own experience when he adopted Chandler from a breeding in Pocahontas, Illinois, 13 years ago. He thought he was dealing with a responsible Yorkie breeder only to find out when he got there that it was, in essence, a puppy mill. That's when he rescued Chandler from that life.) With breed like The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that is genetically predisposed to mitral valve disease, syringomyelia and hip dysplasia, it was really important to me to find a responsible breeder. When I found Juli at Coosa Creek, I knew I had found the right one!
Juli loves all of her dogs and gives them the best of medical care. For many generations now, she has been breeding out these horrible and life-shortening defects from her Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. They are all screened by both an orthopedist and cardiologist and clear of any of these problems. Julie's home is a warm loving enviroment where her Cavs of all coats socialize together, run in the yard and play. She even runs a Cavalier Camp and Coosa Creek!
When we were living in Manhattan, I would repeatedly annoy Michael with imploring questions like "Don't you want a puppy???" to which I would get a quick and firm "NO!" His point was well taken that we barely had enough living space for the two of us in our small 1 bedroom apartment, let alone for Chandler and Phoebe. We finally made the decision and left Manhattan this past spring and moved to Maplewood, NJ. We love it here. We have a spacious home with a really large yard with lots of room for Chandler and Phoebe to run around. And though I'd thought about getting another dog I tabled it over the course of the summer- just to make sure things were working out well here.
Then, in September, we went through a really upsetting and difficult health scare with Chandler. His long-time right shoulder instability issue suddenly flared up and became very acute. So much so that he couldn't even put his arm down or bear weight on it. After a night-time E.R. visit, a follow-up appointment, an MRI of his shoulder and spine, a Neurology consultation and an Orthopedic Consultation, they were telling us that it looked like a very invasive surgery with a long and painful rehab was in the cards. Desperate, we searched everywhere for options. I finally found a veterinary journal that advocated use of a post-op brace/splint for puppies who underwent surgery for shoulder and elbow instability. Looking into it, it seemed like it might help Chandler. We ordered one (they're custom made, so a bit pricey) and VOILA! From the moment he donned it, there was not another limp or whimper. And now, nearly 2 months later, he is fully adjusted to walking/sleeping/living in it and he seems to have successfully avoided the need for surgery.
Michael and I are, of course, immensely grateful and thrilled that we could help Chandler avoid this painful, time-consuming and costly surgery that would leave him permanently disfigured. But it started me thinking again about Chandler and Phoebe's mortality. They're both getting up there. And though Phoebe is going on 2 years of surviving Cushing's Disease, Michael and I know that they're not going to be around for another 10 years. I felt that a younger dog may help keep up their energy levels. Moreover, though, I had a really strong feeling that I didn't want to wait until one of them passed away before getting a new dog. I didn't want something happy and wonderful that I've long anticipated and wanted (i.e. getting a Cavalier) and predicate it on a horrible thing I can't bear to think about (one of our dogs passing away.) So I decided it was time. I brought it up with Michael. In our typical fashion, we really talked it through going over the pros, cons, the ups and downs, what we thought might be the benefits and the risks and decided to do it.
So I went back to Coosa Creek's website and saw that Isabel had a Litter with Yogi Bear. I have long thought that Yogi Bear is just the most beautiful male Blenheim Cav I've ever seen. Imagine how excited I was to see that he had three sons and a daughter that were now approaching 8 weeks old and up for adoption. So I got in touch with Juli, bought our airline tickets and the rest is history.
This was a bit spur-of-the-moment but like so many of those decisions, we feel like this was a great one. We love our little Riley and are thrilled to have him as part of our family.