For many animal lovers, there is often no price too high to ensure their pet’s health. Most people view their animals as part of their family and treat them as such. While it’s difficult for a parent to ever seen their child suffer, the same goes for their furry counterparts.
In the following story, a family in New Jersey received disheartening news about their dog, a beautiful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. When they were told there’s only one person in the world that could save the dog, they dropped everything, emptied their savings and headed to Japan.
Remy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has been a loyal and loving pet to a family in New Jersey for the past eight years. Her owners describe her as a “love bug” who showers the family with cuddles and kisses and is nothing but friendly to visitors of the home.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Resembling Lady from “Lady and the Tramp,” Remy is a beautiful dog with floppy ears and big brown eyes. Besides an occasional cough, Remy was a healthy and happy dog. The family was due to take Remy on her routine checkup, even though they believed her cough was nothing to worry about.
Routine Doctor’s Appointment
But Cathy and John Cuni, Remy’s owners, began to feel uneasy as the veterinarian examined Remy at their recent appointment in September. They had every reason to feel this way when the veterinarian lingered with her stethoscope against Remy’s chest.
While it only seemed like Remy had a minor cough, the doctors visit revealed that she had a severely enlarged heart. Her diagnosis was end-stage Mitral Valve Disease (MVD). The Cunis were speechless, but partly because they had no idea what this disease meant for Remy, the love of their lives.
Heart Failure Common In Small Dogs
Sometimes known as Leaky Valve Disease, MVD is a form of degenerative heart failure. It is a common condition, especially among small dog breeds, usually under the age of eight, according to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for MVD and while medication might alleviate some symptoms, Remy would likely die within six months to a year. As the Cunis tried to process this heartbreaking news, the veterinarian offered one more piece of information.
“The doctor turned her back to me and said, ‘Before you ask, there’s only one person in the world who can help her, and he’s in Japan,” Cathy told the Asbury Park Press. Without hesitation, Cathy and John knew that sooner rather than later, they’d have to head to Yokohama, Japan.
They’d Do Anything For Remy
There was no distance too far to help save their dog’s life and they knew the cost would likely be high. Most people in their situation would have wrestled with the ultimatum, but there was nothing they wouldn’t do for Remy.
Their Pets Are Their Kids
“My husband and I don’t have kids,” Cathy said. “So my animals are my kids.” Photographs of Remy and other pets line the walls of the staircase in their home. The family also has three other dogs, rescued and adopted through her veterinarian’s office.
Nero and Silvio are Blue Roan English Cocker Spaniels who were bred for show but born with cosmetic defects. Then there’s Ruby, a Golden Cocker Spaniel, who was a former stray, adopted through Abandoned Angels NYC. The Cunis purchased Remy as a puppy from a Long Island-based breeder in 2010.
The Entire Family
Three bunnies reside in the Cunis’ living room. Siblings Pearl, Sonny, and their newest addition, Ollie, were all adopted from the Voorhees Animal Shelter. The entire family gets along really well and the other pets were able to sense that Remy wasn’t feeling well.
Mitral Valve Disease
Cathy and John began researching MVD immediately and also the surgeon in Japan. They learned that Dr. Masami Uechi has devoted his entire professional life to this one disease. Using a cardiopulmonary bypass machine, Dr. Uechi and his team have performed more than 400 mitral valve repair surgeries. This was a relief for the Cunis.
Improving Remy’s Quality Of Life
While the procedure doesn’t cure MVD, it can slow the progression of the disease and can greatly improve the dog’s quality of life. If Remy met the eligibility criteria, her chance of success with this operation would be 95 percent. This meant that she would be able to die peacefully from old age before MVD would have the chance to weaken her again.
As far as where Cathy and John would need to travel to have this life-saving operation, it would have to be Japan. Dr. Uechi also performs the surgery in Versailles, France, but the cost there is much higher in that location since the doctor brings his entire team with him. Surgery in Japan would cost around $17,000 while in France, the price is upwards of $46,000.
For some, this might seem like a lot to pay for a pet, but not for the Cunis. They were prepared to take off time from work and tap into their 401-K if need be. Japan also requires rabies vaccines within a prescribed period, followed by a six-month quarantine. This meant pre-surgery testing would cost about $3,000.
There Was No Time To Lose
They agreed to pay it and began the process immediately. “Her cough was deepening and she had zero energy,” Cathy said. “She would stand like a bulldog because she didn’t want to put pressure on her chest. Her heart had enlarged more and it was pushing on her trachea. She was running out of time.” As Remy’s quarantine came to an end, the Cunis planned to fly to Japan on May 28, with Remy’s surgery scheduled for June 5.
Surgery In Japan
After a long flight from New Jersey to Japan, the Cunis nearly cried tears of relief when they finally met Dr. Uechi face to face. “He was such a humble man,” Cathy said. Remy’s surgery was at Jasmine Veterinary Cardiovascular Medical Center in Yokohama, Japan, where the family was able to view the operating room and even see a projection of Remy’s heart on a screen.
Remy was under the care of 11 people in the operating room and she came through after seven hours of surgery. After the procedure, the family spent 30 days in Japan while Remy recovered. John Cuni, an electrician in New York, had to take off of work, and when the couple returned home, it was already July.
Remy Is Doing Great
But the large expense and time away from their home and work were worth it. By Remy’s one-month post-op cardiology visit in New Jersey, her heart had decreased in size, and all the other minor complications that cropped up during the recovery period had subsided. Remy’s energy also returned in full force.
After the experience, John told his wife that there will be “absolutely no more animals.” This is partly due to the stress and money spent on their beloved dog, but besides that, their house is already full of love. Hopefully, Remy can live out the rest of her life in happiness and free of pain. The life expectancy of healthy Cavalier King Charles Spaniels is up to 14 years.
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