Why did I pick NOW to become a blogger?

A few days ago I was given a diagnosis that rocked my world. I'm a 10-year old Corgi living in Portland, Oregon. I am reasonably healthy, except for that abdominal surgery I had last summer. Ok - I don't know WHY I ate that piece of wire but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

In the middle of March, I was told by the folks at the Veterinary Cancer Referral Service that I have K9 lymphoma. I was gobsmacked! My mom immediately tried to find out everything she could and, while there were many sad stories, there really wasn't much else to go on. There are "support groups" but my mom's not much of a joiner when it comes to those things.

What we decided to do was chronicle this journey so that others can follow along. Those who have their own dogs fighting cancer - lymphoma and other forms. Those lucky enough to have a Corgi. Those just SO abysmally bored they have no better way to waste their time.

So we'll see how this works. Be well - The Barney Dog

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holiday Update 2011

  Just checking in briefly to wish Happy Holidays to everyone out in bloggerdom. Again - I am the WORST blogger. I have no sense of commitment, no discipline which is very unusual for a Corgi. I'd rather chew on a sock or lick my front paws or hang out by the stove waiting for something to drop. And lately there have been some rather interesting morsels. I've been told this is the WORST time of the year for we of the canine variety. 

  Poinsettias while lovely, can kill us. Chocolate, of course, but you knew that and macadamia nuts, which happen to be my sister, Douggie's, favorite. Fortunately, Douggie is very good at finishing off ANY of the nut itself but the shells are everywhere. I would imagine that macadamia nuts covered in chocolate would be doubly off limits. 

  Mushrooms. Garlic. Onions... You name it. And for me, raw beef bones can be troublesome due to what the chemo might have done to my gastrointestinal system. So it's better to just stay with the proven commodity - prime rib. Medium rare works.  But when in  doubt, leave it out because the list of things that can hurt us is long and diverse.

  I promise to post a year end wrap-up but I'm waiting for whatever it is on the oven to come out. It's been smelling up the house all day. There might be something we can nibble on. Ya never know. 

  In the mean time, my mom has written her annual ditty. Her year end update. Enjoy and I'll post my own by the end of the week.
_______________________

Twas the night before Christmas. It's been quite a year.
With challenges, issues. With hope and with fear.

The power of nature, at times so sublime,
Reared its ugly head and wreaked havoc big time.

And thousands of people? They just disappeared.
A nuclear meltdown? It's what they had feared.

My Japanese family was all safe and sound
So I looked down at Barney when I came around.

And what to my wondering eyes did appear?
But this lump on his neck. This ominous sphere.

Oh yes. It was cancer. Lymphoma they said.
I thought chemo would kill him. He just smiled instead.

But I overreacted. I thought he'd be gone.
So what's one more dog! We don't need a lawn.

Now it's Yuki and Barney, Tomodachi and Fred.
Not one of us sleeps when they're all on the bed.

And Mark played commuter to Oakland and back.
He gave up on that. His golf game's back on track.

Mark wanted a road trip. "To Key West!" he cried!
From one key to another, we took it in stride.

So I guess we'll stay put. Just hang out for a while.
We'll stay here in Portland. We'll kick it old style.

May you and your loved ones stay safe and be well
As we all bid this year a quick, hasty farewell!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

ANOTHER MONTH, ANOTHER BIT OF MAYHEM


  My last chemo session was August 30, 2011. The note from Dr. Freeman said “This concluded his six month treatment plan.” The whole saga certainly made me feel as if I was more than just a “six month treatment plan.”  Jim at the Veterinary Cancer Referral Center said I graduated.
  Jim always had treats for me. I got another adopted sister in Yuki when my mom overreacted to my diagnosis and drove to Yakima, Washington, with Heidi last April, thinking that I was going to die any day now. I got to sleep on the bed all the time which was especially nice. I got special food made by some guy named Paul Newman. (It made up for all those pills my mom tried to hide in my meals. Like I DIDN’T know they were in there!) I went for rides in the car more than the other dogs. I met a wonderful assortment of fellow cancer patients at my weekly appointments at Dove Lewis, like Draco with Chewbacca-like feet, the rather large, attractive tripod muttley pictured here who was doing well when last we met. When I met him he had just had one of his back legs amputated and it didn't seem to bother him one bit. And Jim also gave him treats, of course.
  On the day of my last treatment, a rather large, burly, tattooed gentleman walked in to the waiting room with what I thought was a guinea pig in his hand. Turns out it was the tiniest of kittens he found in the middle of NW 23rd Avenue in Portland. Truth be told, he didn’t look like the kind of guy who would stop for a tiny, vulnerable fuzz-ball stranded in the middle of a busy street, which only reinforces that “book by its cover” theory. He couldn’t keep the kitten because he already had WAY to many animals. The kitten was too small to be taken in by Multnomah County Animal Services which, from I’ve been told, only services animals by putting them to death so that was probably a good thing.
  Well, my mom made the mistake of eavesdropping, which she does too often. The kitten would have to be hand fed because she was really young. She seemed okay but without someone to foster or adopt her, who was going to pay for tests to make sure? She had some fleas but was otherwise pretty healthy looking. Little does my dad know but we almost introduced a 6th animal to our menagerie that fateful day. My mom went home and spent the next four hours calling people, posting on blogs and facebook, checking in with Jim to make sure the kitten was still okay, desperately searching for a home for this poor little thing. One of my mom’s friend, Tracee from Seattle, was going to drive down the next day to get her if we couldn’t find her a home. Fortunately, another friend, Holly, was thinking about getting another kitten since her other cat had passed away a little while ago. My mom was actually on the phone planning on going to get her because she didn’t know if Holly was really going to be able to get down there in time. Jim asked my mom, “Is your friend’s name Holly? She’s on the other line right now with the vet…”  Her name is now Miss Boots because she has four tiny white feet. Even when she weighed in at under a pound, she managed to keep the 90 lb. Labrador in check. As you can see, she didn’t particularly appreciate the baths to get rid of the fleas (she looks SO sad) but she’s in good hands now. The hand feeding lasted only one day.
  So, I’ve been cancer-free since April. Seven months. When we walked out of Dove Lewis that sunny August day, one would think we would celebrate. But my mom seemed inexplicably distressed. I suppose with the weekly visits and the drug protocol, and the concomitant administration of additional prescriptions, we had benchmarks to meet. Places to go. People to see. Now we just wait. It’s not a question of “if.” It’s “when.” My lymphoma WILL come back. Dr. Freeman said it could be weeks. It could be months. She even said that there was a Basset who enjoyed four years in remission and we all KNOW that Corgi’s are much better suited for survival than Basset’s. While I am optimistic, my mom is more of a realist. Or so she claims. She always has been a glass-half-empty kinda gal. I believe she claims "Glass Half Empty" is her Native American name.

  Prior to my last treatment, Yuki and Fred got to go to the Dove Lewis “Corgi Walk.” Yuki is still rather skittish around crowds and my mom felt it would be good for her to get out and about. Fred, on the other hand, just barks incessantly. It doesn’t make any difference if you tell him nobody likes a loud Corgi. There were 150 Corgi’s. Some in costume. Some with slippers. Next year, my mom says she wants to staff a grooming table to raise even more money for Dove Lewis so that they can take care of any future Miss Boots that come through the door. She's thinking about a grooming table that just brushes Corgi’s: 10 minutes for $10.  She thinks she’ll raise hundreds. I hope to be there to see her reap the rewards.

  My mom also hosted something called "Chicks Rule" last month. It's become an annual event where people come over and support women who are running for office. I don't know how long of a run that is and, as a Corgi with short legs, that is always a concern. But there were a lot of really nice people here to show their support. There was even a woman named Jennifer Williamson who is running with crutches.

  The theme was red and white polka dots that had something to do with someone named Rosie the Riveter. All I know is we raised some money and I got to play with the balloons after everyone left. Call me crazy but these balloons actually stalked me! See for yourself!

video




Wednesday, September 7, 2011

JULY 28th: BARNEY & FRED SMACKDOWN


  Another 6 weeks have flown by. SO much has happened so I’ll break it into semi-digestible nuggets so you won’t be abysmally bored.
  A few days after my last post, my brother Fred and I got into a little fistacuffs. I suppose I might have been feeling a little cranky. All these drugs will eventually do that to even the most even-tempered bloke. But he nipped. I nipped back and before I knew it we were locked in a death grip. (Okay. That might be a slight exaggeration.) 
  That Thursday, my mom was actually “dressed as a grown up,” as she puts it when she has to look presentable or professional. She had off-white linen slacks and a sage and green linen blazer. She was supposed to be going to something called a memorial service for a friend of hers who had passed away a month earlier. The woman they were memorializing was named BettyRoberts
  I got to meet her once when she came to a turkey fry at our house.  My mom seemed to really like her. She was a “Hillary person” and I’m not quite sure what that means. According to my mom, she was someone who walked the talk. Bandwagons are certainly made to be jumped on but she fought for equality before equality became a trendy cause du jour. My mom said that there weren’t enough women like her – women who fought the fight because she believed in it. Not because she wanted her ego massaged or her picture taken. She had a lot of fabulous firsts in her life. She was the first woman to serve on the Oregon Supreme Court.  My mom also said also said she was a pretty good poker player. I guess you had to have a good poker face if you were always dealing with people telling you that you were “less than…” But I digress.
  My mom was on her way out the door when Fred and I got into it. And there was blood. It looked worse than it was but since I have a very full white collar around my neck, it looked as if my throat had been slit.
  My mom got between us and then there was even more blood. Truth be told, it doesn’t look good on off-white linen. Fred got me over the eye but apparently my eyes are so tough, he lost a tooth. My lip was punctured, so was Fred’s foot. Yuki was petrified but that’s pretty much her constant state. (She’s still a little tentative more often than not.) 
 Once we all calmed down, my mom decided not to attend the memorial which I thought was something she really wanted to do, getting dressed up and all. But I overheard her on the phone and she said that memorials were for the living and that she had said her goodbyes a few weeks ago. She ditched her bloody grown up clothes, took off her earrings, sat in the back yard, and shed a tear by herself. Fred and I behaved for the rest of the evening in honor of Justice Roberts.
 

 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

CHEMO DOGS BEWARE: NO VACCINES!


Has it really been a month and a half since last we spoke? Time certainly DOES fly when you’re in remission, doesn’t it!
 
 One can assume in this instance that no news is good news, at least for me. Since June 11, I have undergone three more chemo sessions with either vincristine and/or doxorubicin. My weight is maintaining and I’m feeling rather cheeky if I do say so myself. Next week I start those nasty little cytoxan pills at home.
 I DID have a little eye issue and there was a disaster averted with my other veterinarian.
 Every once in a while my eyes get a little runny. It happens to people with allergies and perhaps when they don’t get enough sleep. I actually had a tiny growth removed from my eye when I was a little lad and it just gets irritated from time to time. Dr. Freeman with the Veterinary CancerReferral Center thought that I should try some antibiotic eye drops just in case. You see – since my immune systems is rather screwy right now, any infection could do irreparable harm. Now the prescription called for an ointment to be applied twice a day. When my mom ordered it, she thought it would be around $15 to $20 and the pharmacist confirmed that. Well! Imagine her surprise when the same pharmacist called back and said that while the generic form of the drug comes in drops, it wasn’t available in the ointment and the ointment was going to be $117! Now I understand why my mom yells at the television on Sunday mornings when the talking heads mention big pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Freeman saved the day again and switched it to drops. No worries.
videoNO VACATIONS FOR YOU!
 The other close call was more disconcerting. My kennel cough vaccine was up for renewal. We need it in order to be kenneled. My mom made the appointment (for all three of us more mature dogs, as a matter of fact) and that was that. Fortunately, she happened to mention it to the people at the Veterinary Cancer Referral Center when we were there last Tuesday and they said, “Absolutely under NO circumstances is he to get ANY vaccines!” 
 Once my mom thought about it, it made perfectly good sense. After all a vaccine is simply a small dose of the disease you’re trying to avoid. With my immune system in tatters right now, it might have killed me. (Forgive the melodrama but that’s how it hit me at the time!)  When my mom called Banfield, she was understandably furious and you don’t ever want to see her furious. They KNOW I am undergoing chemo. It is in my record. But they scheduled it anyway. A vet assured my mom that they would have caught it when we came in but what if they hadn’t? It was only caught because my MOM caught it. She’s still debating whether or not to ever go back to Banfield!
Bottom line – I cannot get ANY vaccines until two months after my last treatment, which makes it sometime in November. My mom was a tad upset because that meant several trips – to Phoenix, to Disneyworld, to Mexico – had to be canceled. She’s okay with it now but wanted to string up either the woman who made the appointments or the vet or, most likely, both.
 Here’s the thing: my mom spends an inordinate amount of time worrying about me. What I’m eating, when I’m pooping, whether my eye is goopy, if I’m sleeping too much, if I’m not sleeping enough, if I’m getting my pills... And for some incompetent buffoon behind a desk to almost throw all that caution out the window is utterly incomprehensible! She makes sure I get my fish oil and mushroom extracts every day. I also get a probiotic powder sprinkled on my food in the morning and the Onco-support powder (which tastes like something even a dog wouldn’t eat so she meticulously fills up little capsules to ensure that I get the necessary vitamins and extracts). No one knows which of these little goodies are working and which are worthless but I AM taking them and I am STILL in remission. Have been since April and I intend to stay that way. There you have it. Cheers! 
 The weather has finally cooperated here in Oregon and our household has calmed down somewhat. I got to sit on our deck and soak up some rays with Willow and Fred and Tomo and Yuki have finally signed a peace accord. At least for now.
 There were two other dogs I met at Dove Lewis over the last few weeks who are not that lucky. Jack is a great mixed breed who has a strange stripe of missing fur on his butt. He was only in remission for a short period of time. The lymphoma came back and Dr. Freeman has him on another regimen. And then there’s Ollie. Ollie is a pitbull/Bassett mix. Now, I don’t mean to sound harsh or be one to judge a book by its cover but Ollie…how shall I put this. Ollie looks like a full-grown pitbull who had his legs put in the dryer and they shrunk. He is the goofiest, friendliest guy I’ve met in a while. And he puts that pitbull myth to rest. Ferocious, my arse! He is built like a brick outhouse, however.
Ollie the Pitbull/Bassett baby
Ollie was diagnosed with lymphoma in January and HIS came back so, again, he’s on what Huey Lewis would call a new drug. Both companions in chemo are in great spirits and have GREAT mom’s worrying about them.
In the mean time, my canine circle of friends has been greatly diminished of late. My mom’s friend owns a fabulous place called Vino Vixens on Powell. Her name is Lesa. Lesa’s beloved Cloud passed away last week. Cloud was a cool dog. NEVER flummoxed or upset even when I was attacking his little sister, Marley.  (I wouldn’t have seriously hurt her. It was one of those silly territorial displays.) And another family of friends, Patty, Sayde, and dear, sweet Gertie, bid a sad farewell to Roscoe. Billy, another canine companion in chemo, is doing well so keep up the good work, dude. So stop in to Vino Vixens, buy a bottle of wine, and give Lesa a hug. And go see Patty, Sadye & Gerty at their DoodlebugDuds booth at Saturday Market. They’ve got amazing things for every size and shape dog – backpacks, bowls, raincoats, beds, and a Doodgebuggy. (You’ll have to go to their website to see what it is!)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

13'S MY LUCKY NUMBER


 Thirteen weeks and counting.  Thirteen weeks of chemo treatment and 11 weeks into my remission.  I’ll take it.
 The vincristine I had 2 weeks ago had no really annoying side effects but for the slight adjustment to my intestinal fortitude. Literally. As I mentioned in my last post the chemo drugs I am being given destroy fast-growing cells.  As in humans, they don’t necessarily distinguish between the good, the bad, and the ugly fast-growing cells. This is why humans lose their hair and I…well, I have gastrointestinal issues.  The best food in the world isn’t going to help you get healthier if it isn’t allowed to digest properly. I believe the challenges presented today might be a cumulative response to the beneficial yet undeniable assault and battery on my otherwise impressive bod. If you'd like to see additional photos of my impressive bod, email me directly and I'll text them to you as long as you are of age and I'm not quite sure what age that would be in dog years.
 Instead of putting me on more anti-diarrheal drugs, Dr. Freeman, from the Veterinary Cancer Referral Center, gave my mom some probiotics. Probiotics are actually live microorganisms that are supposed to get my lower forty back in shape. They seem to be ALL the rage lately with Jamie Lee Curtis hawking them in yoghurt on TV commercials. The probiotics I am taking are in a powdered form and they are probably not as tasty as the yoghurt is, though I’ve never tasted it. We’ve had marginal success but that’s probably also due, in some small measure, to the fact that I had last week off again from any chemo drugs.
Having last week off was critical especially since this new rescue pup is a handful even while resting under sedation after her surgery. (She and Fred took the opportunity to spoon, as it were.) Yuki is allegedly at least PART Corgi but I simply don’t see it. Yes, she’s short but that might be due to the fact that she’s only 5 months old. People see her and inquire, “Oh is she part Corgi…” That might well be because I am standing right there. As if traits of my regal breed could rub off on an otherwise indistinguishable cur via osmosis!
Yuki’s most annoying habit is imitating me. Well, if you can’t make a silk
purse out of a sow’s ear you certainly CANNOT make a Corgi out of a Yuki. No matter how much she tries to herd us, stalk us, or tilt her head when she hears “Rule Britannia” or how much she claims to love David Bowie. I just hope unsuspecting humans don’t fall for it.
This week my treatment includes cytoxan given orally at home.  Once again I ask WHY am I taking a drug by mouth that my mom wears gloved to handle? But I jest.  Cytoxan and lasix go well together.  Like peanut butter and jelly. Bagels and lox. Liver and ice cream.
My mom, however, appears to be overly concerned with my bowel movements. She said it reminds her of when her twin nephews were born and everything had to be written down. How much they ate, when they were bathed, who’s diaper was changed last and what was in it? She thought it was absurd for one’s life to revolve so intensely round biological emissions but she understands it now. My fellow pack members don’t necessarily watch where they’re running and should they step in “something” and lick their feet, my caustic crap could cause irreparable harm. So my mom looks like one of those crazy people with metal detectors following me around in the morning with her pooper scooper. If I cough, she furrows her brow and makes sure it’s not an unusual cough. She scratches my neck every morning and tries to act as if she’s not REALLY checking my lymph nodes. It’s cute how she does it.
Every once in a great while, I think about the end. Nothing melodramatic. Nothing earth shattering. And on bright, brilliantly spring-like days like today, it’s the farthest thing from my mind.  A quick nap with the sun shining on me makes everything perfect. And, despite the annoyingly chipper younger sibling, life is good. With my elderly wisdom and what time I have left, I try to teach Yuki manners, like how to walk nicely on leash but she’s somewhat obstinate at times as you can see in the video. Yuki just doesn’t retreat and the word “surrender” is simply not in her vocabulary.
video
 Wouldn’t it be great if we really could communicate in some meaningful way? I suppose that's a pipe dream. I mean humans have the same language and THEY can't even get through a sentence without someone taking something the wrong way. There is a book written by a human, of course, that is supposed to help make these communications better.  It’s called Dog Sense and the author says, “To many people, a world without dogs is unthinkable.” And to many dogs a world without humans while perhaps enjoyable for a short while, would mean a lot of hungry dogs in the long run. Regardless of our shortcomings in the conversational arena, I’m glad to have met you.
 Til next we meet!   

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

NINE 1/2 WEEKS: THE "G" RATED VERSION


  Last Tuesday I went back to the Veterinary Center Referral Center to receive what is apparently the ONE medication my body just doesn’t seem to like very much. I usually look forward to Tuesday’s. I get to spend time with Dr. Freeman and Lauren. They are very nice people although they feel the need to stick me with needles at every opportunity. It comes with the territory, I suppose. 
  Now Jim, on the other hand, knows that the way to a dog’s heart is through his stomach. Jim lovingly gives treats. Repeatedly. Every dog in there knows if they just stand there long enough, Jim will hand over the goods. What more could I ask?
 Back on topic…The drug last week was doxorubicin/adriamycin. I guess it’s pretty effective otherwise I’m sure they wouldn’t be giving it to me.  When I was a doxorubicin virgin, they gave me an EKG to make sure my heart could take it.  Heart damage is one of the possible side effects. Doxorubicin works because it actually binds to the DNA in fast-growing cells. Problem is it can ALSO mess with healthy fast-growing cells like the ones that line my intestines.  Ay! There’s the rub! The result: an overwhelming need to evacuate my bowels more frequently than usual.  Lauren at the Veterinary Cancer Referral Center has a gentile way of asking about the severity of the issue: cow pie or liquid. It evokes a certain "eeewww" reaction but provides an immediate, accurate assessment. 
  The pills I was taking to combat that rather unfortunate side effect worked wonders.  But I stopped taking them Friday.  My mom picked up some metronidazole pills today because there’s no reason to be unnecessarily messy, is there? Of course the organic ground turkey and rice entrees aren’t bad either. I chowed down on that for dinner last night while my mom had popcorn.
  Doxorubicin can also kill the tissue around the injection site if it doesn’t get directly into the vein. It is a testament to how good the people at the Veterinary Center Referral Center are because that’s NEVER happened to me.  YES my legs DO get shaved every week, as you can see, and it makes for interesting conversation. And YES my lymphoma is in remission so I have nothing to complain about.  My mom met another dog there today and he went through the chemo treatments and NEVER went into remission. THAT would be horrible!

The Yuki Dog
The Tomo Dog
  I have this week off from chemo and to make sure I didn’t get bored, my mom decided that another rescue dog was needed.  Truthfully I don’t know WHAT on earth she was thinking. We now have this terminally perky 4-month old Corgi/Australian Cattle Dog mutt that insists upon playing CONSTANTLY.  I must admit we behaved rather badly Friday evening when she was introduced to us.  Honestly we attacked her.  Things smoothed out significantly over the weekend to the point where we essentially tolerate her. Tomo couldn’t care less. She usually curls up in her fetal position wherever she is and catches a snooze. The new puppy DOES have her moments as you can see in the video. It was shot on an iPhone hence the annoying vertical format but you get her generalized joie de vivre...as irritating as it may be.

video

  She has Corgi-like tendencies like curling her front legs under her like a cat.  She has the large round front paws and the small oval back paws. She also watches TV like I do. Her ears aren’t standing up yet but neither were mine at her age. Her name is Yuki which means either “snow” or “lucky” in Japanese. I think this dog is lucky that my mom got snowed into adopting her. Arf. Arf.
  Also this week my mom had the yard air-rated. I say this only because it served to increase Fred’s anxiety level. You see air-rating pokes hundreds if not thousands of tubular holes in the lawn. It supposedly helps the lawn look better. For me? A lawn’s a lawn. Tree stump. Fire hydrant. Fence post. When ya gotta go, ya gotta go. It freaked Fred out because it leaves little turd-like fingers of dirt all over the yard. Poor Fred doesn't want to step on them and he keeps sniffing everyone of them because they LOOK like they should smell and they ACT like turds meaning that when you step on them they look like smooshed turds. And my poor mom doesn’t even know what she’s picking up anymore since she is on constant poop patrol with the scooper whenever I’m out there with my toxic droppings.
So now we are four. We few. We happy few. I’m just wondering when my bird-brained friend Douglas Macaw-thur will return and what she’ll do with the new addition when she does. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

K9 9/11 TRIBUTE, ROYAL'S WED, EXCERISE & NO RAW FOOD!

  WELL! Last week was certainly eventful.  I would be remiss if I did not first mention the extraordinary bravery and dedication of K9's around the world.

  The terrorist take-down on May 1, undoubtedly wouldn't have happened without the invaluable leadership of a dog whose name will never be known. Nor will the names of the humans who assisted in this dangerous mission.  This four-legged warrior served the humans with total disregard for his/her own safety. (People keep calling them SEALS but I'm pretty sure they were human. I can't imagine seals fast-roping from a helicopter or clearing several floors of a compound. It's that prehensile digit thing again. And that annoying bark would certainly have been disconcerting to say the least!)  Since we will never know the names of these heroes serving so bravely, SO honorably, we should never again mention the name of the gutless coward they took down. IMHO.

  But in thinking about this unnamed K9, thoughts of other four-legged and furry creatures who have also served came to mind.  There was bomb-sniffing Sirius who died in his kennel in the South Tower, probably waiting to go to work.  There were Ana and Jake, also using their super sniffing powers to find people in disaster rubble. While these Labs and Retrievers are the most widely accepted search and rescue dogs, I want you to know I sit at the ready and am MORE than eager to start my SEAL training.  It's not JUST larger breeds that can serve admirably.  Think of all those tight spaces I could get in with these shorter legs! Perhaps MI6 might be interested?

  Another K9 was called into action for the Royal Wedding and he dutifully responded.  Max seemed to be randomly sniffing and looked like he was more interested in having fun than working but since the wedding came off without a hitch, I'd say "Job well done!" Some will say the 5,000 human officers had something to do with it but we'll never know, will we?

  We didn't stay up until some ungodly hour to watch the festivities but we DID watch the coverage the next day and we dressed appropriately.  Well, Fred did.  Since Fred couldn't find a morning coat and top hat, he improvised as you can see.  Cross dressing seems to suit Fred though he was clearly disappointed that he could not indulge in the champagne.  I, on the other hand, sat regally sipping tea in my "Keep Calm and Carry On" mug. Even though Brits have disagreed on the monarchy for centuries, we seem to have come together for the sake of the newlyweds. It was a thoroughly modern wedding, much less stuffy than the last one.  They even included a Welsh rugby song in the programme.  Fortunately it is one of the few clean rugby songs I've ever heard and it served as a tribute to the groom's mum, Princess Diana.

  This week found me back at the Veterinary Cancer Referral Center.  I got to Dove Lewis at around 7:30 and was excited to see a fellow Corgi in the spacious, spotless waiting area!  Her name is Lucy and she, thankfully, is also in remission from lymphoma.  Her dad, Mike, spent some time scratching my head and, as far as I could tell, he was talking about Corgi's and what an exceptional breed we are.  Except for the shedding part.  My mom claims Corgi's shed a whole 'nother dog every day.  I'd say that's a bit of an exaggeration but Lucy's dad seemed to agree.  Lucy's dad was also worried about her weight - too much not too little.

   So for Lucy and all the other... shall we say "stout" Corgi's out there, let me share my work out ritual.  If the sun is shining it is always best to go outside and run like the wind.  As we all know, sun shining is a rare occurrence in Oregon.  In the alternative, I recommend an absurdly large red rubber ball  and a foam roller.  Both are used for balance training, self-myofascial release, self massage and stretching.  You can try to do all of those but I prefer to move them around with my foot and bark at them. 

  There is something else I learned this week from Lauren, the very nice young lady who sees me every week.  And this is VERY IMPORTANT! While my mom keeps reading about the benefits of a raw diet and breeders and rescue folks alike recommend it, Lauren said NO RAW DIET for dogs like us! Chemo may be keeping us live but it also compromises our immune system and with a compromised immune system, there's no telling WHAT salmonella could DO to us!  Raw diets, also called "bones and raw food" or BARF diet, can actually be deadly for us and our human caretakers. I mean, THINK about it.  If they call it a BARF diet, how good could it really BE?  Even though my mom is half Japanese she could never really get into the sushi/raw fish thing either.  She says there's nothing wrong with raw hamachi or fugu that a little garlic, butter, and a frying pan couldn't fix. And sashimi?  It means "pierced body!" Ugh.  Burger means burger and that's sufficient for me.  

  So until next time. Keep calm and carry on!

Monday, April 25, 2011

WEEK SIX: Tip Toe Through The Tulips



It’s been six weeks since I started this chemo journey. I’ve been drugged, cuddled, shaved, placated, chauffeured, over-fed, analyzed, spoiled, and lionized.  Maybe the “lionized” is a bit of a stretch but overall it’s been an interesting experience.  I have often heard that we need to take time to stop and smell the roses.  We don't have roses in our yard even though we live in the City of Roses.  However I did stop and smell the tulips but tulips have no appreciable smell as far as I can tell.  Not like gardenias, my mom’s favorites.  They’re very pretty, though.  We don’t have very many in the yard.  My dad claims that’s because my mom planted dozens of bulbs wrong with the roots facing the wrong direction.  He claims they’re probably blooming in China.  I don’t think that possible but he brings it up every spring.
I’m feeling much better lately.  Still in remission.  Had a few gastrointestinal issues.  Experimented with LOTS of food options. We went to see a nice gentleman at a place called the Bark Market. Again – it’s one of those hole-istic places with a very nice dog named Sadie in charge.  He spent a LOT of time talking to my parents about organics and something called a raw diet. He said that cooking things sometimes releases free radicals which is apparently a very bad thing.  My mom thought he was talking about a musical group.
And last week, I saw a therapist for the first time. Our therapist is a young woman named Elizabeth Matthews.  We get to call her Linny Beth. Linny Beth came all the way from Colorado where she also founded a company called Thumbs Up
Linny works mostly with troubled humans but she’s known us for a while. We go WAY back.  She calls us the Love Train because we follow her around whenever she’s here. She agreed to see us for a session even though we’re not from the species she normally helps. Also, food, wine, and conversation always make the world go round and there was LOTS of it. Linny Beth chatted with each of us.  Except Tomo.  I don’t think Tomo believes in that touchy-feely stuff. Must be the Shiba Inu/Japanese part of her. Tomo mostly wandered around the yard smelling things and eating grass.  Linny Beth asked us about our typical day.  We chatted about everything. It was difficult to explain our view of the world, especially from a very low, very short perspective. But the video will show you what we mean.   
We talked and Linny Beth asked questions.  She was very professional, even taking notes for future reference.  Fred was just being overly melodramatic, even turning away from the camera in tears. It’s ALWAYS about Fred.  Linny Beth suggested I strive to live in the moment and just be myself.  (Like who was I going to be? Ethel Merman?) The therapy was fun.  Not altogether an unpleasant experience. 
video
Linny Beth and my mom laughed a lot.  They were telling stories about some of the things they did when they were younger.  If they were telling the truth, now I understand why neither of them will ever run for public office.  They’re both lucky they aren’t incarcerated even today.
I don’t have go back to the Veterinary Cancer Referral Service this week.  I’ll be taking cytoxan at home along with something called lasix which, as far as I can tell, is a diuretic.  It’s supposed to help me get rid of excess sodium and potassium, helping my kidney function.  I think.  I can't be positive. I’m only a dog, you know. This probably means I’ll be running for the door more often than I usually do next week and I really despise going out when it’s this wet and cold and rainy.  The WORST part about this whole thing this week is I DON’T get to go for a car ride and I DON’T get to see Jim.  Who always gives me treats.  Harrumph!
 

 


Saturday, April 16, 2011

DRUG-FREE DOG WEEK. Or as Nancy Reagan touted: “Just say no.”


"On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog."
I must apologize for being remiss in my duties as a dog blogger.  Since most bloggers, I am told, are slackers in their mid-20’s living in their grandparents’ basement, microwaving ramen noodles, typing furiously with Cheetos-stained fingers, I feel compelled to dispel this as a possible image of dog bloggers.
Truth be told, I had the week off from chemo and I’ve been feeling rather feisty.  Last week’s dodoxorubicin/adriamycin kicked my bunny butt.  I actually didn’t want to eat anything one day, which sent my mom into a manic depression. Probably not as bad as the one fellow Welsh-woman Catherine Zeta Jones is experiencing but worrisome nonetheless.  The day after my self-imposed fast, however, my dad came home.  That’s always a reason to celebrate and I inhaled my dinner that evening, making my mom seem like a lying reactionary.  I’ll just have to learn to move my food around in my bowl to make it LOOK as if I’ve eaten it.  I’ve been told my human cousin, The Baby Girl aka Alyssa, often does this rather successfully.
Sitting at a computer typing was just NOT in the cards for last week.  I DID do some reminiscing, though, and I thought I’d share what it means to be a Corgi with my loyal readers.
Cor gi translates to “dwarf dog” or “gathering dog” in Welsh. There are two types of Corgi’s: Pembroke and Cardigan.  I am a Pembroke, THE favorite of the Queen Mum as you can see.  We were also prominently featured in that movie with Helen Mirren.  Dame Mirren won an Oscar for that extraordinary role and there was much buzz about creating an Oscar category for best performance by an animal to highlight the incredible Corgis’ portrayal of…royal Corgi’s but nothing ever came of it.  
People are sometimes told the easy way to remember which Corgi is which is to think that Pembrokes don’t have tails.  So think of a dog with the tail BROKEn off.  Ouch.  I actually have a naturally bobbed tail.  No unnecessary, painful docking needed here, thank you very much.  While people also think that Pembrokes and Cardigans are pretty much the same dog, let me remind you that Cardigans are longer with a different bone structure, floppier ears, and are generally just not as attractive as we are.  IMHO of course.

We are the smallest of the herding breeds, usually between 10 to 12.5 inches tall and weighing in at between 25 and 28 lbs. We can be red, fawn, sable, or tri-color/black and tan like Fred.  We may or may not have white areas on the chest, legs, neck, and muzzle.  Some Corgi's tip the scales at 30 lbs. and over (such as this dainty Corgi specimen who rather resembles a footstool) but that's usually because we are so darn cute that our loving owners simply can't refrain from giving us treats and table scraps.  While all treats ARE delicious, moderation is the key to keeping us healthier and alive longer.  Now if we were out herding cattle, sheep, or small children every day, the exercise would keep us at a fighting weight but that doesn’t happen very often in Portland or any other areas in the States that I've visited. Maybe I need to get out more?
Legend has it that we were the preferred mode of transportation of faerie warriors in the woodlands of Wales. The faeries eventually took pity upon the poor mortals working so hard just to survive that they allowed the Corgi’s to help them, working the farm, herding cattle and the like.  Most Corgi’s still have the markings left from the harnesses and saddles up around our shoulders. Take THAT French Poodles!  Show me your legendary roots! HA!

People must know that we are big dogs in small bodies.  Not the type of dog that would want to be carried around in a designer shoulder satchel.  More often than not, our bark can sound fierce.  My brother Fred’s bark is actually deeper than mine.  Unless you see us, you’d think there was a 120 lb. Rottweiler barking behind that door.  Once you break in, however, we are pure show dogs.  We show you where the jewelry is…where the cameras are…
I will start again with the Veterinary Cancer Referral Service on Tuesday.  We’re still trying to get the diet thing under control but in the meantime, I am getting some pretty impressive meals.  My mom is trying something from a company called Newman’s Own.  She says Butch Cassidy wouldn't lie to her.  I haven't a clue as to what that means but I smile when she says it.  It makes her feel better.  The Newman food smells GREAT but has the consistency of mousse.  No matter what she mixes it with, Tomo and Fred drool longingly.  If they only knew that anything from prednisone to sulfasalazine to cerenia might be mixed in they wouldn’t be so eager to get in on the chemo deal. If I could choose between chemo and organic ground beef or "normal" food for the rest of my life, I'd pick the "normal" food.  At least then I'd KNOW I'd have a "rest of my life."
Adios for now. Au revoir.  Hasta la vista, baby. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Week 4: I am the ANTI-DOTE DOG


Here I am – 4 weeks in and so far, so good.  I am, however, on a personal all-time high number of prescription drugs and supplements. I AM a tad woozy as I type this so I apologize if it rambles.
Due to my…rather vigorous response to needles last week, my mom gave me  acepromazine before we left for the Veterinary Cancer Referral Center.  Actually, she pumped me FULL of pills before we left at 7 am.  I am still taking 5mg of prednisone everyday for the next week.  I also get fish oil and mushroom extracts along with the Onco Support powder, which has everything from vitamin A to things like green tea extract, lecithin, spirulina, kelp, yeast, and zinc.  Basically A to Z.  No kitchen sink yet but it’s still early in the protocol. 
Acepromazine was used as an antipsychotic in humans in the 1950’s.  It’s now used almost exclusively as a sedative to “quiet” anxious animals.  My mom was wondering if she could lessen my dose and give the leftovers to some of the anxious humans she knows. Acepromazine can also be deadly to some herding breeds if they have a certain genetic mutation.  Fortunately, Corgi’s, apparently due to our superior genetic makeup, are not impacted. Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, Collie, English Shepherd, German Shepherd, Old English Sheepdog, and Sighthounds could all have problems with this drug and, as far as I’m concerned, with proper herding techniques as well.  Bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to herding. It's amazing how complicated things can get when it comes to drug interactions.
videoThis week, I received doxorubicin, aka adriamycin, for my chemo fix. It can be pretty nasty and is NOT recommended for older muttlies or dogs that have heart issues.  Before I got my dose, I had my first electrocardiogram to make sure my heart was good to go.  I guess I passed with flying colors because they shaved my legs (AGAIN) and proceeded to hook me up.  I didn’t mind all that much because of the sedative.  I think I slept through most of it.  I just woke up with these shaved patches on my legs again.  It was kind of like the time my mom tells people about when she was in college and everyone got drunk and went over to “the city” and got tattoos.  She talked everyone into it and she was the only one who DIDN’T get a tattoo.  They were all a little upset with her.  Don’t know why.  One guy who eventually wound up being a doctor got the Bud Man tattooed on his butt.  Can you imagine waking up and finding out that you have a Bud Man on your derriere for the rest of your life?
When we left Dove Lewis, Jim gave me treats again. I can ALWAYS count on Jim to give me treats and a funny story. Jim told my mom that the Veterinary Cancer Referral Center is “housed” in Dove Lewis pretty much the same way Nordstrom and Victoria Secret are “housed” in a mall.  I think Jim wanted to be likened to Victoria Secret.  Frankly, I don’t know WHY they call it Victoria Secret.  If you wear what they sell, there ARE no secrets…but I digress.
I also got a smiley face on my report because I was drugged into submission.  My mom also got anti-nausea and anti-diarrheal drugs for me to take all week.  I guess it would be immensely unattractive if I had things coming out of both ends at the same time.  This could cause a logistical nightmare especially given the sheet full of “how to handle chemotherapy waste.”
video
Since the start of this adventure, I’ve somehow managed to lose 1.5 lbs which is disconcerting.  I mean – I don’t want to look like the average 10-year old Corgi, resembling an over-stuffed sausage casing, but weight loss is not something I am currently working on. My mom is going to keep an eye on it, which hopefully means more organic ground beef and healthy treats. 

Dinnertime has become a whole new process with everyone participating.  Since my food usually has some sort of medication in it, Fred and Tomo have to be kept at paw’s length but it doesn’t keep them from becoming overly excited as you can see by the video. 
But all is good.  My temperature is normal, determined by yet another daily pleasant experience. I get to sleep on the bed every night.  I know that I am lucky because I feel safe and warm and loved which is more than I can say for a lot of animals out there. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Week 3: Remission! WINNING! REALLY winning. Not like that crazy guy winning.


Yesterday, we went to Dr. Freeman, whose office is at Dove Lewis, for my third chemo session.  When I left, Jim (the great guy who sits at the desk and gives me treats) gave my mom a piece of paper that said “…His lymph nodes are back to normal size and he appears to be in remission for lymphoma! Yah!...” There were BIG sighs of relief all around. My mom doesn't believe ANYTHING unless she sees it for herself.  She says "Glass Half Empty" is her Native American name.  So, here it is in writing...well, typing. I have to admit, I was starting to worry but I think I've gotten over those manic moments for now.
Of course, I thought that meant no more ground beef or scrambled eggs.  Au contraire.  My remission STARTED yesterday.  It lasts, on average, 6 to 18 months.  So, for the next 5 months, I WILL be going back to see Jim, the treat guy, and Dr. Freeman and the rest of the people at Dove Lewis.  The medicine is really not that bad and whatever ill-effects I may feel are completely overshadowed by the exceptional additions to my diet.  Spinach a few nights ago…yogurt…these delicious dog smoothies…  I heard my mom talking to someone about chicken necks and backs in a pressure cooker.  Not too appetizing by the sound of it but one never knows. Before long, I'll be back to my usual self.  Charming folks with my scintillating personality, witty repartee, and amazing balancing skills (see above). As a matter of fact, I was SO feisty yesterday, they've given me a prescription sedative for my next trip.  I'm sure you'd need one, too, if someone tried to dry shave YOUR leg and stick a needle in it. 

When I was getting my chemo (this week it's Vincristine IV again), my mom went to Kornblatts and had a bagel with her friend Kathy.  Kathy's dog, Sam, had lymphoma, too.  Sam was very young and lived for a little while longer but even with the chemo, he never went into remission. Poor guy. Kathy sounded like a great dog mom, though.  She cooked extra special meals and got mushroom pills for Sam from someone she called a hole-istic vet.  She gave the left over pills to my mom so now I'm getting them in my ground beef.  I'll make sure to take them every day and think of Sam when I do.

There are SO many dogs that come in to Dove Lewis for cancer treatments when I'm there.  I feel lucky that my parents can afford this stuff because I remember what Dr. Freeman said the first day..."a few months to live."  Maybe people think we don't understand what they say thanks to that Larson cartoon but we can tell just by the tone.  You could say "I'm going to feed you prime rib tonight" but if you say it like you're mad or you make one of those wrinkly faces when you say it, we think you're saying something bad.  Or that we did something bad. Or that you're mad.  But we also know when you're upset.  We can just tell that by the way you smell.  It's a dog/nose thing.

So, I got home yesterday and was ready to celebrate, BIG time.  We went out on the deck.  Ran around a bit.  Sniffed at a few things.  Nothing new. Drank about 18 gallons of water (that's what the Prednisone does) and I was looking forward to just hanging out and soaking up some rays.  There WAS sun on Tuesday.  Unfortunately, it lasted about 2 minutes, as it usually does this time of year. We were disappointed but, as my dad says, "Here in Oregon, it's a dry rain."  I'm not exactly sure what that means.  They also said that about the heat in Arizona when we lived there: "It's a dry heat."  Like THAT made it any better. A convection oven is dry heat. I want to cook with it; not stick my head in it or live in it.  At the end of the summer when we had to go outside, it was like a blast furnace.  Even the pool was too hot.  But I digress.

I was thinking of my brother Fred when I was at Dove Lewis.  Fred and I got into a fight last year. Nothing tragic.  Just your normal sibling bite and growl, pick and roll thing.  I somehow managed to grab Fred's ear, though, and do some damage.  As you can see by the photos, Fred's got SOME ears.  He's never going to grow into those ears.  And when my tooth got caught and ripped it - just a little - I found out how much ears can bleed.  The living room looked like a scene from CSI - Miami, not Vegas.  It wouldn't stop and that resulted in Fred's second visit to Dove Lewis. (The first was the Imodium episode.) It was late on a Saturday night and they had a LOT of patients.  A LOT of them were "urgent," as opposed to Fred who was "stable." He's not really stable but I suppose it means something medically as opposed to socially. They folded his ear back over the rop of his head and taped until it stopped bleeding. They drew a little ear on his bandage along with a smiley face.  He was pretty funny looking.  All of the other parents at Dove Lewis - the ones who had brought their dogs and cats in and were really worried about what was going to happen to them - could only look at Fred and laugh. He's definitely good for comic relief from time to time.  They also gave my mom some epinephrine to take home which surprised her.  She said she knew epinephrine was used when people had allergic reactions to things.  Some people carry what they call "epi pens" for bee stings or peanut allergies.  What she DIDN'T know was that a few drops on a cut, or in Fred's case a ripped ear, make the blood vessels close up and stop bleeding.  Pretty cool. You can learn something from your dogs every day.  You just have to listen up and be open to it.  More often than not, let's hope these life lessons don't all require a trip to Dove Lewis for ears OR cancer.