Caliber is a seven-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. He is often confused for a female cocker spaniel like from the Lady and the Tramp movie.
When Caliber was five months old, a friend commented that he was as relaxed as a five-year-old. This description has been an accurate picture of his personality ever since.
When I got Caliber at just ten weeks old he was adorable fluff-ball! I already had a plan laid out for him: He was going to learn to be a therapy dog.
Certified Therapy Dog!
Within his first year of life, Caliber had been through two Petsmart training classes and then passed the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen Test with the local therapy dog organization with flying colors!
Caliber loves his job. He couldn’t be more excited than to put on his vest, climb in the car for a ride, and visit with special needs children and nursing home patients. He seems to have an understanding of these people, being very calm and careful around them.
Caliber now lives on several acres of beautiful country land. He loves the space and freedom and has adapted well to being a country dog.
Somewhere just before one-year-old Caliber started having trouble. Allergies and loss of appetite. He would eat one bowl of food every two days. Literally. I tried bribing him by topping his food with parmesan cheese, ground meat, and any leftovers from our meals. It took until somewhere between three and four years before he again ate regularly twice a day, every day.
Also, at just one-year-old, someone told me he was already gaining unnecessary weight. I couldn’t understand how a growing dog could already be getting fat. Over the next few years though, he continued to gain weight until even I readily admitted he had to lose weight. By consensus, Cavaliers have about a 90% chance of having heart disease by two years old. Being overweight increased his chances.
At the same age he started refusing food, he also started licking his paws raw. He began to get rashes under his belly, as well as itchy ears, an itchy face, and runny eyes and nose. These allergies started seasonally, but it took a while to figure that out with the recurring paw-licking. Soon his allergies became year-round. Caliber also developed a chronic ear infection. This was when I started my research about all things dog-health related.
Start the Digging
Dog food, food allergies, environmental allergies, natural treatments, vaccinations, medications, and all the common diseases. I made a hobby of it. So did my best friend who got her puppy shortly after I got mine. We spent hours every day reading books and blogs. When we went to the pet store, we always took the time to investigate another bag of pet food. Every time we learned something new we had to tell the other about it.
That was six years ago. Those years have made a lot of difference. We’ve learned a lot about caring for our dogs. How do I know? Caliber’s condition has improved. His eating habits are regular, and he gets excited about his food every time. He no longer licks his paws raw or gets itchy rashes under his belly. He has lost weight and maintained that healthier weight.
Beyond that, we’ve become able to make educated decisions about our dog’s diets, veterinary care, and training. We’ll never know all the answers, but what answers are available are exciting. This is why I wanted to write this blog. As a resource for all the research we’ve done, to make a difference in our dogs’ health. I hope you enjoy learning about canine health and nutrition as much as I have!
– Cassy Kay and Caliber
Update: Caliber has found a friend and snuggle-buddy in Kimber, my sister’s rescue dog. Kimber has a unique coat color called seal. – May 25, 2019.
Update: In June 2019 Caliber gained a new canine family member. The little cream puppy is Akyra, a uniquely colored german shepherd with boundless energy. Capturing this rare moment of play between Caliber and Akyra was very special. Caliber tends to take on a “wise, old dog” attitude with puppies and isn’t often coaxed into playing.
Update: In August 2019 Caliber was diagnosed with congestive heart failure due to a defect in the mitral valve of the heart. This condition is genetic in Cavaliers. He is currently comfortable and happy with the help of medication, lots of rest, and all his favorite foods.