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

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. 
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.
This 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.”
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.