Syringomyelia Awareness: Should They Be Saved?

Wouldn’t Have by Tammi Brown
Re-Posted from The Royal Spaniels Summer 09

In the Fall 2008 issue of TRS, Tammi Brown wrote an article telling what it was like for a human to live with syringomyelia. Since that time Cavaliers have come under a negative spotlight due to this disease. When Tammi was asked whether she thought the Cavalier breed was worth saving, despite their health issues, this was her response.

As a forty-three year old female dealing with the affects of Chiari, syringomyelia and related disorders for over twenty years, I look at my life and realize if I didn’t have these conditions there are many great things that I wouldn’t have, including a Cavalier with syringomyelia. Not for any negative reasons some might read into, but simply because this particularly extraordinary dog came to me because we both shared the same condition; and his very special owner, at the time, saw the good that could come from our connection.

As I travel on my journey to the discovery of my true authentic self, I am learning that we as beings are not our bodies. In the book Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn he writes, “Yourself as pure ‘being,’ is that aspect of you that is beyond your body, beyond your name, your thoughts and feelings, your ideas, opinions, concepts, even beyond your identification of yourself as a certain age or as male or female.” This concept is confirmed in my Cavaliers’ spirit each and every day. Even though his body may be afflicted with this condition called syringomyelia, his spirit is not. His tail never stops wagging, his personality never falters and he is always happy to be here on this earth.

It is because of him I remind myself daily that if I didn’t have Chiari, syringomyelia and a Cavalier:
I wouldn’t have… the excitement of coming home or being home as much as I do. When you live alone, home can be a lonely place. When you have a dog, home is the best place to be.
I wouldn’t have… the experiences of walking each and every morning; rain, shine, sleet or snow. I wouldn’t truly experience the beauty and drama of our four seasons, the antics of nature, the hustle and bustle of humans.

I wouldn’t have… expanded my nutritional, natural health and homeopathic knowledge to the extent I have. I also would have never realized the simple overlap in these subjects when it comes to humans and canines. This knowledge adds such value to our wellness. When dealing with a chronic illness it is imperative to live the best life in all ways possible.

I wouldn’t have… had the privilege to get to know my neighbors, particularly the ones with dogs. We have all become friends, dogs included. We look out for one another; arrange play dates, as well as dog sitting. I know my neighbors! This is something I avoided in the past.

I wouldn’t have… overwhelming joy and laughter every day. My spirit can easily waver depending on how I am feeling, but there is always the presence of this other constant, unwavering spirit at home to boost me up. Other than the fact that he sometimes walks with an extra kick in his step, you would never know there was anything wrong with him. His spirit always lights the way. He is the dog with a million faces; faces I have gotten to read pretty well. He is quite the character with many antics to entertain; his prancing with a new bone; dancing for treats; waiting at the bottom of the stairs to roll to his back just at the right time for a belly rub.

I wouldn’t have… experienced true, unconditional love and devotion. There isn’t anything like the love shared between a dog and its owner. He is my shadow, my confidant, my companion, my roommate, my co-pilot, my exercise partner, my fellow couch potato and my friend. When I look at him I am overwhelmed with love and responsibility from the depth of my soul. I will honor, protect and love this dog all the days of his life.

I wouldn’t have… the indescribable feeling of contentment and peace when he cuddles on my lap and falls into a deep sleep. These are the most pre cious moments for me; the moments I try to be fully present for. If life ended in one of these moments, I would be fulfilled.

I wouldn’t have… known what a good mother I could have been. Someone without children naturally wonders what kind of parent they would have been. Patient, nurturing, good in a crisis? Having a dog has allowed me to tap into my maternal and caretaking skills. It has allowed me to draw from a deep love inside me that has never been tapped before. Owning this dog has filled a hole in my soul, a hole that I am not sure would have been filled by a child. However, certain situations parallel the possibility of the parent/child relationship. For instance, when he is scared by some thing; he runs to me for comfort. Being part of this relationship has led to increased self-awareness. It has also helped me recognize and develop some essential parts of myself.

I wouldn’t have… realized the brilliance in dogs. The dogs I was around growing up were not my favorite. They were not well trained; quite frankly, they were more of a pain than they were anything. It wasn’t until I was older that I started to like the idea of a dog. The communication that develops between dog and owner is amazing. I swear sometimes he knows exactly what I am saying to him. He can tell when I am not feeling good and pick up some of the slack in some situations.

If I didn’t have Chiari and syringomyelia I wouldn’t have had a Cavalier at all. I would have been working. I would have missed out on the connection that brought us together. I wouldn’t have met all the amazing people I have, had many great experiences and learned tremendous new things. I wouldn’t have had the time I do to spend with this most amazing creature and to share my experiences with all of you. What a shame that would have been. Wow! I sure would have missed out.

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