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

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


  Fred here. I guess you could call me a guest blogger or dogger. I am Barney’s younger, more athletic, better-looking brother. I know he’d want me to fill folks in so here we go-

  The Barney Dog has left the building in a most universal and spiritual way. He fought the good fight against that dastardly lymphoma stuff for over two years as we, his canine and avian siblings, watched helplessly. He liked to say he was living WITH lymphoma; not dying FROM lymphoma. He would have been 12 years old on May 25th.  I worked with my Mom and pulled some pictures together if anyone wants to see them. 
  Barney was feeling rather feisty over the last week. His lymph nodes had swollen up a bit TWO weeks ago and he was put on what the doctor was a “rescue” protocol drug. It was something called asparaginase akaElsparAt that appointment, they discovered this really nasty “mass” on his left hind leg. It was virtually undetectable, concealed by the bunny butt fur that we Corgi’s have. It was also above the lymph node area that had been CONSTANTLY checked over the past two years. But after the area was shaved, it was nasty. About the size of a large Oreo cookie, it was hard and infected. It looked to be sweating blood from time to time. Tests were done but they were “equivocal.” In other words: “What the hell IS that?” 
  They put him on clavamox/amoxicillin which destroyed his appetite.    My Mom started thinking he was a gonner. She cried a LOT…started preparing for “THE END.”
The Elspar was REALLY expensive at $300.00 and really didn't seem to do much. So, next they tried something called lomustine aka CCNU.  
  Within days, his nodes were almost back to normal and after a few more days, the nasty mass on his ass (excuse the pun) was also gone. We were all prancing around like there was no tomorrow. Unfortunately, that turned out to be true. The bad side effects of the lomustine hit 8 to 10 days after you take the pill. They hit my brother at 7 days. 
  We had a rough night and in the morning, he couldn't stand up. It was really confusing for all of us because he was prancing and playing and running just 12 hours earlier! This is one of those times I’m sure my Mom is happy she doesn't have Neopolitan Mastiffs because she wrapped Barney in a towel and carried him outside. I guess she thought if she got him out in the sun and he saw us running around, it would come back to him. It didn't work. My Dad came home from working out and we knew something was up because they didn’t even feed us breakfast. They ran out the door and headed to the doctor.
 I heard my Mom telling someone over the phone that she just knew it was time. She said “No more sticking him with needles or pumping chemicals into him. No more pills. No more prodding and groping him…” She said he got one last shower of sunshine in his face when she carried him into the office and he squinted and smiled.
 They said his white cell count “tanked.” He also had a fever they couldn't get under control. And then they couldn’t get his blood pressure up and that was going to hit his kidneys soon. With the help of the doctor, my Mom and my Dad held him until he went to sleep and then his huge heart stopped.
 We miss him, though. We all keep expecting to see him in his usual hiding places…in her office…in her closet. My Mom has been remembering funny stories and she cries from time to time. She said there was one time she had Barney in the Porsche 911. He LOVED car rides. When she drove around with the top down, he would hop on to the floor and as soon as she came to a stop sign, he would hop up onto the seat, prop his feet up on the armrest and look around. Inspector Corgi. This one time, a cranky man came up next to them in his own Porsche and he scoffed “That dog is going to RUIN the leather.” And my Mom said “It’s a fu**ing car!” Barney said he was pretty stunned she yelled at the guy but when she pulled away, she was laughing, he hopped back on to the floor and waited for the next light.
 Life goes on that way. I think we’re all just waiting for the next light so that he can pop his head up again. Maybe by then. we’ll all be able to.
Keep Calm and Corgi On!! 
          The Freddy Dog

Thursday, May 2, 2013


I know it doesn't LOOK comfortable...
  SO here I am settling in at our new home state despite its muggy, buggy nature. Mum keeps worrying herself about alligators. We get regular visits from someone she calls "the bug lady." The grass here still leaves much to be desired and I have heard neighborhood rumors about ticks and fleas, neither of which appeal to me. I HAVE taken to sleeping with my head wedged under an antique lacquered Chinese cabinet and my Mum finds this disturbing. I find it soothing. Sort of like an ostrich burying its head in the sand when it is afraid which is not entirely true. An ostrich WILL dig a deep hole in which to lay its eggs but they run like the dickens when afraid. But I digress. 

Just a touch of color
   Things were smoothly running along in remission again, all was good and I get t-boned by something completely unexpected. I celebrated my 2-year anniversary of living with lymphoma on March 13th. It's admittedly been a rough and tumble two years and I must admit I was feeling a bit cock sure. “Record-setting run,” the vet said. “Healthy as an ox,” my dad boasted. A 12-year-old Corgi living 2 years with lymphoma! Stupendous! Call Guinness. And Letterman! People were accusing me of being Dorian Gray and I, not-too-humbly, was soaking it all in, basking in the glory. Well, I am sorry to tell you the glory was short-lived. 

Black interior? Really?
   Currently, I have outlasted not one but two board certified canine oncologists here. No. They haven't expired. We moved away from one and one moved away from us. When last I wrote, we were making the weekly then biweekly trek to Winter Haven, Florida, to see Dr. Miller. It was usually a three-hour round trip and in the new car, it wasn’t bad. (We finally replaced Nigel, the incorrigible Range Rover we abandoned in Cheyenne, WY, last September.) Often it was a much longer drive than that due to the fact that no one apparently knows how to drive in Florida. I've often posited that this is largely due to the number of out-of-state drivers on the roads in Florida which is more like every driver. This unpredictably long round trip was quite the departure from our 10-minute roll down the hill to Dr. Freeman at Dove Lewis when we lived in Portland. Dr. Freeman was really quite wonderful. She used to sit on the floor with me.  And then there was Jim. Jim always had the best treats.

  My Mum and I didn't really didn't mind the trip south to Winter Haven, though. I love car rides and these were exceptionally special since it was only the two of us.  Mum got to visit her dear friends, Aunt Norma and Uncle Bill, while I had toxic chemicals pumped into my veins. Mum is actually working to assist Aunt Norma with her extraordinary textile collection. Technically, "textile" is a misnomer. Aunt Norma collects EVERYTHING and she shares it with EVERYONE! Kimono, headdresses, quilts, saris, hanbok, kanga, purses, jewelry, Limoges, dolls, books, furniture... You name it and Aunt Norma probably has one. Probably two. Just setting paw into her studio is a spine tingling honor. The smells are undetectable to the human olfactory organ but to me, they are intoxicating. Hundreds of years of stories waiting to be unwrapped and told anew. Who do you think actually WORE that WWII Japanese uniform or that antique Chinese robe? And that mystical Zulu headdress adorned with all those beads and feathers and bones! Was it for an actual battle or merely a ceremonial dance? I could almost HEAR the laughter of children and the thunder and the battle cries and the animals and the music all bubbling up from the centuries, echoing from corner to corner, room to room, calling out to me. I was bathed in that ethereal glow of past-life memories that never ceases to perfect the past.

 But I digress. Mum and Aunt Norma and Uncle Bill would luxuriate in a world of beauties and then have lunch. At the end of the day (and I mean that literally, not in that hackneyed, buzz phrase way), Mum would pick me up, shaved, prodded, poked and medicated, and we would head back north. There was always at least one vehicle accident because, as I said, no one in this state knows how to drive. Such carelessness resulted in extra hours upon hours on Interstate 4.
  Last week, my left hind leg started itching on the way to see my new vet, Dr. Lurie, who, thankfully, is only 30 minutes away. There had been something slightly annoying back there but since I can’t see it, we all ignored it. After all, my Mum, gropes EVERY lymph node EVERY MORNING. I’m frankly astonished she hadn’t noticed it but it wasn’t anywhere NEAR a node. The ride in the car, however, allowed me to prop my butt up against the brand new leather seat back and curl around in such a way as to allow me to FINALLY scratch it! Well, that certainly didn't work out the way I’d expected. Dr. Lurie identified a “mass” and shaved my bunny butt fur right off. Mum was horrified. I was embarrassed. Dr. Lurie was concerned. It is a large (well - large if it's on your butt), hard, circular disk-like mass. And it was bleeding from the center. While it WAS my week off from chemo, I wound up on a broad spectrum anti-biotic and pain medication. The antibiotics wreaked havoc with my digestive system and the pain meds just knocked me out. And that was just the beginning. 

  Five days later, test results came back and my nodes are misbehaving everywhere. I am now on something called asparaginase aka elspar. They are also giving me some sort of anti-inflammatory for whatever it is that is growing on my back leg. (Trust me. Unless you are in the medical field, you don't want to see it and even then, it may burn your retinas out.) Mum TRIES to keep the cone of shame on me. I act so sad and downtrodden, it usually lasts only a few minutes. She had to trim the one we had because it was much too big for these short yet stout Corgi legs. The trimmed edge was a bit rough so she stitched a piece of 200-year-old kimono silk around it. Her Japanese superstitions dictate that the spirit of the young girl who wore the kimono during the Meiji Period (1868-1912) will keep me strong. While I am NOT superstitious, I’m hoping she’s got something there. If nothing else, it was definitely a fashionable step UP from the normal cone. Aunt Norma said it was no longer the “cone of shame.” She calls it the “cone of elegance and strength."

Just a LITTLE wet
  Prior to all this nastiness, everything was almost approaching acceptable! We spend our days out by the pool. I have the perfect perch under a sprawling palm tree and Tomo and Yuki stay close and annoy Mum while she tries to read. Neighbors occasionally stop by to gossip. They bring treats so I have no objection. I DID manage to fall into the pool one day and after my dad fished me out, I promptly ran into the house and shook all the water off while standing in the center of the hand-knotted, wool Persian rug. I could have settled on the much less expensive machine-knotted rug but when shaking and leaving your mark, why not aim for the best, I always say!   

Has Hefner called?
  We had an uneventful Easter. No chocolate or eggs here however Fred couldn’t help but get dressed up in bunny ears to match his bunny butt. I’ve warned you about Fred’s penchant for cross dressing and dressing up. The only egg around was the one Douglas Macaw-thur came from. Mum has Douggie's empty egg shell encased in stained glass with her hatch day etched on the top. By the way, Douggie would be irate if I didn't mention the fact that she was written up in the neighborhood newsletter. They used the above photo and no one can believe she actually hatched out of something that small! Being the star pet of the neighborhood hasn't really gone to her head. She's a rather grounded old bird.

Agility training speed bumps
  For the time being I am resting comfortably, waiting for the elspar to kick in. I sit on my Mum’s feet under her desk and the three amigos block the way out of her office like a canine obstacle course. We’re all hoping this new drug gobsmacks those nasty cancer cells back into remission in time for my 12th birthday on May 25th. If not, I call on you to celebrate my birthday without me. Nothing austere or maudlin or melancholy for me. I want raucous! I want outlandish! I want worthy of a call for bail money! Knowing you for the party animals you ARE, I’m sure that won’t be a difficult task. My Mum and Dad may be a bit gloomy for a while but no one said this was going to be easy. Dad keeps saying the bad news is that dog’s don't live long enough. The good news is that human beings get to know many of us over the course of their lifetime and since we provide unconditional love, what more could you ask. Mum’s good friend, Ed Gero, who recently bid adieu to his gallant friend Puck, put it well: "The price of companionship is a loving act at the end." Well, Ed IS an award-winning, wildly acclaimed, immensely talented Shakespearean actor. What did you expect? "Either he's dead or my watch has stopped." (Bonus points awarded if you know who said that. No google cheaters, please.) 

Til next time - Keep Calm and Corgi On!

The Barney Dog

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


There are places I remember all my life, though some have changed… We are now in the third happy household of my lifetime. Things are still a little unsettled. My mum keeps saying: “There is NO storage space!” but she doesn’t seem to realize she can discard all those heavy cold-weather coats since we apparently won’t be needing them here.  Only one room that needed it has been repainted. What little carpet there is leaves much to be desired. The game room, with a pool table, still needs work and the pool, in a different “room”, finally stopped leaking. The garage remains untamed territory. But we DO have patio furniture.  I DO have to stand guard poolside. There is something lurking at the bottom of the pool. It appears to be a snake of some sort with a blue and white head. It trolls around the bottom of the pool and gets threateningly close to the edges. Should this pool snake monster take leave of its watery realm and decide to attack, I will be the ready to protect hearth and home. And patio furniture.      
Yuki meditating
  It is rather appealing to sit on the patio while mum reads (she has become a voracious reader) and dad bothers her out there. Fred and I usually climb on her chair first, leaving Tomo and Yuki to fend for themselves. Tomo has never really been one to climb on furniture, though she DOES love her leather ottoman. Yuki tried to act serene, as if she’s meditating. I believe she’s just sleeping and has forgotten to lower her head. Douggie surely believes she’s in heaven on the patio though she sometimes looks longingly up at the herons and cranes flying overhead. Never at the ducks. She views them with contempt. 
Yes. I'm in the closet.
  My new favorite place to hide from the noisy masses is my mum’s closet. It is a rather large affair so I don’t know why she laments a lack of storage space. I can curl up and be left completely alone for hours at a time. Bliss! I was lounging in front of the fireplace, nice and warm, but they’ve only lit a fire in the fireplace once. Doesn’t really get cold enough for that here but it IS a wood-burning fireplace so it smells right.
  The holidays came and went with no fanfare.  While mum and dad went to visit dad’s brother for Turkey Day, we had a new dog sitter to train. Her name is Heather. She should work out just fine. She seems like a quick learner and she gives us treats. She knows that I am, by far, the cream of the crop in the household and she tolerates Douggie. I know my mum is always concerned about finding the rogue swollen lymph node but Heather seems to grope me just fine. I really have no intention to let those cancer cells start to take hold again so I'll just have to remain vigilant. And take my vitamins.
Dad sleeping in the hallway
There was a bit of excitement as my mum was getting ready to attend a holiday dinner in December. Tomo apparently decided that she didn’t want to move anymore.  She settled in on the bathroom floor in front of a cabinet and refused to move. After about thirty minutes, my mum realized this acute lack of mobility was not entirely voluntary. Tomo is 14 years old and from time to time is a bit stiff (but aren’t we all at that age?). When neither mum nor dad could get her to stand up, we all started to worry. Mum, ever the overly dramatic one, KNEW it was a stroke or a brain tumor or an aneurysm. Oh! The horror! Dad slept on the floor with her to make sure she knew she wasn’t alone and pretty soon, it turned into a slumber party for us all in the hallway.  It was none of the above. It WAS geriatric vestibular syndrome. We were busy making funeral arrangements and the next day, Tomo was fine. A bit wobbly but none the worse for wear.  My mum said a gentleman named Ed Gero had a handsome lad named Puck who had suffered from the same syndrome in his old age. It HAPPENS in older dogs so be on the lookout.
My new friend Lucy!
  In the “good news” category: I am still in remission and feeling fabulous. I did manage to meet a sturdy young gal named Lucy who is also undergoing chemo for lymphoma.  We met a few days before her mum’s wedding. She was supposed to be a bridesmaid but felt rather poorly that day (some nasty gastronomic disturbance) so she opted to sleep through the festivities. I was really looking forward to seeing her in all her fashionable glory but we’ll have to wait for another opportunity. Her appearance in her gown may not have been as keenly anticipated as the one at the Inauguration but I’m sure she would have looked as stunning…in a canine sort of way. 
Mum's Annoying Jewish Friend, Bob Rosenberg
  I have another checkup in 2 weeks and I am expecting positive results once again. Unfortunately, my mum’s good friend (whom she addressed – to his face - as “My Annoying Jewish Friend”) lost his long battle with a never ending litany of cancers.  I had the pleasure spending time with Mr. Rosenberg while domiciled in Snottsdale, Arizona. He seemed a lovely though gregarious chap. He knew more than you about everything and never hesitated to let you know this. He would always remember my chemo appointments and call afterwards to see how I was feeling. Those kinds of friends are hard to come by and even harder to lose. God speed, Mr. Rosenberg. Fair winds and following seas.

Black bear or hairy rugby player?
  I continue to have issues with the Florida excuse for grass. It’s not up to snuff as far as we are concerned. It's also wearing rather thin in the areas where we tend to romp. And the wildlife in our own backyard is getting increasingly interesting. A loud, curious badelynge of ducks now shows up regularly and they don't seem to know that we could send them all to an early grave. What brazen fowl they are! I don’t understand why my dad wouldn’t let me out to play with a rather large hairy creature the other day. He seemed friendly enough. We just didn’t know how hungry he was so dad saw fit to keep us contained within the fenced area. Maybe next time. 
  As always - Keep Calm and Corgi On!