In the Midst of Life

Ch Roycroft Keya Cameron RN C-RA

Keya as a slim puppy

Keya was very difficult to show. She didn’t like showing. I didn’t get her till she was six months old, and poor socialization as a puppy meant she really didn’t like strangers reaching toward her. Pretty as she was, she had a hard time picking up points. For a couple years, my whole job when showing her was to assure her that showing was fun and that judges could be ignored. I learned a lot from her: mostly how to teach a dog to stand solidly and not worry. I showed her in performance and that was a challenge in a different way, but she was SO food motivated, so that wasn’t bad.

Not actually hiding; she’s staring at me, hoping for a cookie.

Keya matured into a really pretty girl. A white sclera in one eye, which is not desirable in a show dog, but pretty despite that. She was very (very) low-drive, with no prey drive at all. I used to bring her along whenever I took dogs to the park or hiking because Keya didn’t need to be on leash. She didn’t care about squirrels and would look at a deer or horse with complete disinterest. Once, a rabbit ran across the trail right in front of me. The other dogs with me barked madly and pulled hard, wanting to chase the bunny. Keya went to the brush where the rabbit had disappeared, poked her head into the undergrowth, backed out, and looked at me. “Are you coming?” she asked, as clearly as if she’d spoken aloud. “Oh, you’re not coming? Never mind then.” And that was it. She sure wasn’t going to bother chasing a bunny without me.

What Keya loved most in life was sitting on a couch eating treats, and being near me. She honestly didn’t care about anything or anyone else. She was fine with strangers, but disinterested. Unless they had treats, of course, but I didn’t encourage other people to offer her treats. She would snap for a cookie with a little too much verve. You had to be quick to avoid nipped fingers.

I kept showing her, and eventually we both learned how to show properly: Keya learned to stand like a rock and wag her tail, and I learned to hand out chicken tidbits continuously, without a break, and boom, she finished her championship. She was five. That’s pretty old to finish. But we did it, just about the same time one of her two daughters (Honey) also finished. I was entering them both in the same shows by that time. Keya was prettier but her daughter Honey had the most fantastic movement, so it depended on the judge, but they both picked up points.

Standing like a rock

I bred Keya four times, but she was a terrible, terrible producer. Words can hardly describe how terrible. She had four litters, from which I got a total of three living puppies. Most of her puppies kept dying about two days before the due date. This was devastating because her father was so, so fantastic. His name was AKC and CKCSC Sanickro Enchanter at Heartsong, and he lived to eighteen and never had a heart murmur. He was the top-pointed Cavalier in 1999, a stunning dog, and by sixteen clearly just about the best dog in the country for heart quality and overall vigor. That’s exactly what I wanted, of course.

I had two puppies from him, half sisters. The other is a year younger than Keya and to this day has no heart murmur at all, but I placed her as a pet long before anyone could tell she’d never develop a murmur. Keya was prettier, so she was the one I kept to go on with. Keya developed a murmur at, I don’t remember, seven or eight, and her heart gradually enlarged, but she never had any symptoms of congestive heart failure. Eventually the cardiologist told me to start counting her respirations while resting and call for a consult when her respirations went over thirty per minute. For the next three years, I counted resting respirations once a week. Twenty to twenty-four the whole time. It wasn’t her heart that took her from me.

Keya’s two daughters, like their mother, were bad producers, with lots of trouble with premature labor. I figured that out eventually and started taking many complicated steps to get them to carry a full litter to term. Even so, I nearly quit breeding. It was so difficult and heartbreaking and also expensive. Then Ish turned out to be so, so beautiful. I un-quit after a year or so and went on after all.

Ismael, Keya’s oldest grandpuppy, now nine and heart-clear


Kimmie, Keya’s second grandpuppy, and Morgan, Kim’s single puppy, Keya’s great-grandpuppy




Conner, Kimmie’s full brother, here about four months old, looking exactly like a stuffed animal. He’s six or seven now.


Kimmie, playing with Morgan’s first litter, Keya’s great-great-grandpuppies


Naamah, another of Keya’s great-grandpuppies, Conner’s only daughter, playing with her cousin’s Morgan’s puppies


Keya, much, much older, but still beautiful

Around a year and a half ago, Keya suddenly had a seizure. Then she had another. And another, and another, and one more before my vet and I got them stopped. Her timing was one every three hours or so, with a long post-ictal period of about an hour and a half.

We all know what seizures mean in a geriatric dog. That means a brain tumor, almost all the time. I didn’t do an MRI to confirm because there was zero chance I’d put her through brain surgery. Cavaliers tend not to die of cancer and particularly tend not to die young of cancer. Some can do fine for a long time. And for a while, Keya did do fine. She was on phenobarb, but it barely affected her while turning off the seizures.

The she started having breakthrough seizures. They weren’t as bad. The post-ictal period was almost completely absent. Still, my vet and I did our best to stop them and finally put her on Levetiracetam as well as phenobarb, and all was fine. For a while. Then breakthrough again, and Clorazipate joined the mix. That one knocked her way, way down, having a far more deleterious effect on her life than occasional seizures, so that made all kinds of decisions more difficult. And so we went on from there, backing off the Clorazipate and then putting her back on it, but at a lower dose, and so forth and so on. Keya’s balance got worse and worse. She started having trouble on tile and I got a bunch of long carpet runners to help her get around the house better. That worked for some time.

This past couple of weeks, Keya started having frequent minor seizures where she would zone out for a couple of minutes, then recover.

Last week, she began having extended periods every day where she couldn’t get up on tile, but also had trouble standing and walking on carpet. She would be more able to stand and walk sometimes, but a lot of the time she would struggle for minute after minute and still not be able to stand. Helped to her feet, she might manage, or she might totter a couple of steps and then sink back down. She hasn’t been in pain, as far as I can tell. Not at any point. She’s continued to love food. But I finally decided her impaired mobility and the more obvious progression of seizure activity meant it was time.

Last night, I asked my vet to work her in. She was almost exactly fourteen years and four months. I can’t believe how long it’s been, or how short a time it seems.

Please Feel Free to Share:


11 thoughts on “In the Midst of Life”

  1. I’m sorry for your loss – she was beautiful, and it sounds like you gave her a great life.

  2. I’m so sorry.

    And I’m hoping hard that all the puppies do well this week (and the coming weeks!), and you find joy amidst the grief.

  3. I’m so sorry. Seizures are a hard way for the end to come, and you spend the whole time wondering — what if there’s another med that would work? are the med side effects too much for the quality of life? when is it time to make the decision?

    I’m glad she enjoyed a long and happy life with you, and may the memory of all the good times bring you comfort.

  4. Thank you all.

    Yes, Maigen, every dog is so different when it comes to seizures and medications. In theory the Clorazapate shouldn’t have helped just giving it once a day, but it did, for several months.

    At least Keya never suffered. I watched as carefully as I could and never saw signs of pain or even distress except immediately after a seizure.

  5. Rachel, first: You just write so beautifully. This retrospective on Keya’s sweet life (and well cared-for exit) is sad, but sweet. Glad you helped us know her and that you shared, honestly, what it was like to be with her, from the start to the finish. She was incredibly lucky to have you caring for her. If there’s doggy heaven, she’s having a wonderful time with Otis. And they’re saying great things about you. :)

  6. I enjoyed reading the history of your journey with her and I feel for you in your loss. A wonderful 14 years.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top