Today is the day Barney came home – the day we all came home from Newmarket!

We got up early, gave Luke his breakfast and then packed our belongings at the hotel and loaded the car up. With a baby in tow, there is always a LOT of stuff to take everywhere, but especially when you’ve been away from home for 3 nights.

We waited eagerly for the call from Rob to say Barney was definitely coming home today and that call came during breakfast. Elation!

Again, he went through the same things with us. Preparing us for the shock of seeing the “new” Barney, we think. He told us he was fine though and that he was doing really well considering what he’d been through.

We left the hotel early and decided to let Luke have a sleep in the car as we weren’t able to collect Barney until 12pm. Time seemed to really drag because we were counting down the minutes until we could see our boy.

I have to be honest and say that we were both full of anticipation and trepidation. It’s an odd feeling. One that is hard to describe. We wanted to see Barney, to hug him, to tell him we love him and just to see what exactly had been done to him and of course what he looked like now. It didn’t matter what he looked like, but it’s still one of those things that you’ve never been faced with before and fear sets in that you’ll give the wrong reaction. Like I said, it’s hard to explain and probably hard to understand unless you’re in that position.

We drove through Newmarket taking in the sights that we had now seen numerous times over the past few days. Never actually getting out of the car, just looking at the racecourse and surrounding areas. Pretty.

12 O’clock Midday arrived and we were already parked up, waiting. We went into the reception are of Dick White’s and told them we were there to collect Barney. I sat there remembering that just 3 days ago, we were all sitting there together, waiting to see what the future held for our beautiful boy, IF indeed there was a future for him. At that point, he looked and acted just like Barney. Full of life, tugging at the lead, scrambling across the floor to see what was going on around the corner, panting because he just couldn’t control his excitement. I wondered if it would all be a thing of the past and he would be a more subdued Barney. I hoped not, but if he was, then that would be okay too. We love him no matter what.

My moments of reminiscing were interrupted by a big, black, hairy dog who came tearing around the corner on a lead, with a nurse in tow, who seemed quite unaware of just how strong the dog she was handling was. Tongue hanging out, heavy, excited panting, a crazy twinkle in his eye and the familiar scrambling told me that yep! It was Barney. I knew it was him before I even saw him!

Reality hits. Or does it? I don’t know what I’d expected. A huge gaping hole? A really disfigured Barney? I don’t know. I guess I had a horrific picture in my head, but what I saw standing in front of me was just Barney. Yes, part of his jaw was gone, but it was Barney. Just Barney. Crazy, mad, uncontrollable. The same as always.

We were led into a room – the room we had our initial consultation in on Tuesday, where Rob came and joined us. No one sat down this time, we all stood up and Rob went through things with us again. It was difficult to hear because Barney was excited to see us all, Luke was excited to see Barney and the general tugging around and whacking of his tail on the tables and chairs meant that Barney was making a right old racket! Some things never change (thank goodness).

Rob explained again about the actual operation. We asked some questions (I’m going to Blog about all this kind of stuff in a separate post, with pictures too). He went through the medication Barney needed to take. Amazingly, he only had some antibiotics and anti-inflammatory tablets that he needed to take. I don’t know why, but I expected to be bringing home a bag full of pills, including painkillers, but Rob told us Barney had no pain whatsoever. Amazing. I could barely believe it but looking at him, Barney displayed no signs of discomfort. The dog we were collecting is far from the dog we expected to collect, much to our pleasure. In my mind, Barney would be tired, slow, unhappy, at least for a while. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

We were told that we just needed to make an appointment with our own vet (Martin) to have the stitches removed from the lymph node area in around a week to 10 days time. We’d hear from Rob again regarding the histology and vaccine, but for now, that was it.

We said our thank yous and goodbyes and took Barney to the car to swap their lead for his, ready to head home, but not before walking to the paddock at the vets to allow Barney to have a wee and a little stretch of his legs. He amazed us by running from one side of the field to the other, on the lead, with Matt following. In hindsight, we decided that probably wasn’t a very good idea since he’d just had major surgery and been hooked up to IV’s etc. Whoops.

The drive took less than an hour and Barney sat up for most of it. I just kept looking at him in the rear view mirror feeling so happy that he was coming home with us. We never knew on Tuesday if the drive home would be a happy occasion or not. I’m so glad it was.

We woke up early and took Luke for breakfast at the hotel. We were both eagerly awaiting a phone call so when Rob called to tell us Barney had had a good night and was doing well, we were both really relieved.
He went through everything with us again. How Barney looks, about his tongue hanging to one side, about why they needed to remove the left canine, even though he’d really hoped to have saved it. We told him that was all fine so long as Barney was okay and happy, which he confirmed he was. He’d eaten again and been for a walk so we were happy with that.

We were told that we might be able to see him today, but that didn’t happen in the end due to the vets being so busy, but they pretty much thought he would be home the next day anyway.

We woke up early, got Luke’s breakfast done and awaited Rob’s call to firstly, find out how Barney’s night had gone, and secondly, the plan of action for the day.

He called quite early and told us that Barney had been fine overnight and that they were going to get on with things as soon as possible.

We received a call around 2pm to let us know that Barney was under anaesthetic and that they’d be proceeding imminently with the chest X-Rays and checking to make sure that the tumour wasn’t too close to his tongue and that if there were any problems that they would let us know.

We just prayed that the X-Rays and location of the tumour would be fine and surgery could proceed.

We didn’t have to wait long at all for a follow up call. By around 3pm, the phone rang. As I looked at the screen and saw it was the vets, my stomach knotted. I honestly thought that there was something on the X-Ray and that was it, Surgery was off.

Much to our surprise, they were calling to tell us that Barney was now in recovery, his mandibulectomy done and everything had gone well. We just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know whether to cry with shock, happiness or relief, so I think I cried with all three.

We walked around just grinning at one another and felt so happy. Anxious about what our boy was going to be like when we saw him again, how he would cope with part of his jaw missing and just generally after a big surgery like this.

We didn’t get to see him that day. He was left to rest for a while and again, to our surprise, we received a phone call around 7pm from Rob, telling us that he’d eaten for the first time (this was literally just a few hours since surgery) and that he was looking quite bright.

He explained that they’d had to remove the left canine (the big long tooth at the front of the mouth), which he’d really hoped to have saved, because they needed to ensure that the entire tumour was removed, with a good, clear margin either side so that the cancer was completely gone and none remained. In total, Barney had lost 9 teeth. His tongue would now permanently hang out of his mouth and because he has such a massive tongue (it’s abnormally long!) it’d be noticeable. We were shocked, but it was a case of doing what needed to be done to make sure our boy was okay.

He told us the Professor (Dick White) had done the surgery with him so we knew that Barney really had been in the best hands. They’d removed his lymph node and had noticed some “pin-pricks” of colour on it. This could mean that the cancer had spread, but it could also just be that, because Barney is a dark (black) dog, that it could just be pigmentation. We’d know in a week or so.

He also advised that they’d now send off the tissues that had been removed, for histology and they’d be checked to make sure that the margin they’d taken was ample enough to have removed all of the cancer.

We slept much better that night, knowing it was all done and he was okay.

We set off for Newmarket at around 11am. It’s only an hour from our home but we wanted to ensure we were there with plenty of time to spare. We’d been made aware that there was a possibility that Barney may be kept in for tests, so we had agreed that if need be, we would find a hotel in the area and stay for as long as was necessary.

We arrived early, as intended, and took Barney for a walk on the open paddock that is owned by the vets. The place looked lovely and we felt comfortable there.

We went in just before 1pm and soon after, Barney’s consultant, Rob Foale, came and introduced himself and took us into a room to begin the consultation.

His first question was how long we’d had Barney. I told him I’d had him since he was 14 weeks old, so just coming up for ten and a half years. He agreed it was a long time. I told him he is a major part of the family and him not being a part of our family was not in our plans at this time.

He asked what we had been told regarding options for Barney and we said that we had basically been advised that there would possibly be an option of surgery or chemo/radiotherapy.

Rob then went on to tell us all the facts and what options we had. This is what I’d dreaded. I knew it wasn’t going to be sugarcoated. This was now becoming very real.

He advised that there were two options, but, realistically, this was going to be based on cost as most things are with animals. We told him that cost was not an issue and whatever the cost to make him better, then that’s what we’d pay. He told us that they’d not do anything that did not need to be done. I already trusted this man. My dog’s life was in his hands. I had to.

He advised that radiotherapy to shrink the tumour was one option, however, this will never completely rid him of the cancer, it would be a measure to prolong his life. The other option was surgery. Quite a radical surgery because it would mean removing part of his jaw. The sheer thought made me feel sick with worry, but I knew this was the option for Barney. He talked about curing him, not prolonging his life. It sounded positive. As positive as it could be right now.

He couldn’t get a good look at Barney whilst we were there, purely because, again, he was over-excited and his tongue was hanging over where the tumour was situated. His one concern with Barney was just how close to his tongue the tumour was. He explained that if it was close to the baseline, then surgery might not be an option as there is a large artery that runs through the tongue and if severed, it would mean that he would lose the use of his tongue. That’s just not a possible option so we needed to find out exactly where the tumour was. He needed to put him under anaesthetic to find out.

Everything moved so quickly from here. He told us that the final cost would be somewhere between £3000 and £4000 excluding VAT, and that if Barney was to need an MRI Scan, that would be an additional £1500. We didn’t care at all. He then told us that he would like to keep Barney and run tests. Blood tests, chest X-Rays, if need be then the aforementioned MRI Scan and check under his tongue. Within the space of 40 minutes, we were asked if it was okay to remove his collar, harness and lead and that if it wasn’t too traumatic for us, to take them with us, just until we collected him again. We agreed, signed a form and watched Barney being led off to settle into a kennel. Heartbreaking? Yes, but we had to be positive that this was going to all be okay.

Rob promised that whilst Barney was there that he would call us all the time to keep us up to date on what was happening with Barney. A word he stuck to. He really couldn’t have been better.

We left the clinic at around 2.30pm and went off to find somewhere to stay. We found a place just 8 miles away from Barney that was great incase we needed to get to him quickly for any reason.

Later that evening at around 6.30pm, Rob called to tell us that Barney had settled in great. He’d eaten, had a walk and his blood tests had been done and had come back as “remarkable”. He said that for his age and the fact that he’d had a general anaesthetic less than two weeks prior, that he was amazed by how good they were. He said his haemoglobin level and cholesterol levels were slightly raised, but at ten years of age, that was more or less to be expected. Barney is officially a very fit and healthy (apart from this cancer) dog. One worry down….

A sleepless night followed….

The Result…

May 21, 2009

I arrived home and found Barney’s nose the other side of the door. I’d already decided that if my partner was in the lounge when I got back, that it was bad news…

…. And there he was, with a look of sheer sadness on his face. My heart sank.

I immediately said “you know, don’t you?” He replied “yes”. I said, “It’s bad isn’t it?” He replied “yes”. He moved forward to hug me and I just told him not to. I just wanted to hear the news I’d been dreading for 10 days. I knew it was about to hit me like a brick. He took our baby from my arms and we sat down.

He told me that the lump was a melanoma. At this point, they didn’t know if it was malignant or benign, but either way, it needed to be treated. It was small, 2cm. They say anything 3cm or over is not very good. I guess that was “good” news. It looked as though it had been caught fairly early on.

Martin also mentioned that the lump in his side had been a tumour too. A mast cell tumour. He’d managed to remove it all though and this was not a worry. However, it was malignant but the cells were barely separating so it’d been caught very, very early on.

Martin had made us an appointment with a specialist in Newmarket, at a place called Dick White Referrals with Rob Foale.

The appointment was on Tuesday, straight after the Bank Holiday weekend. Those five days would seem like an eternity.

The Wait…

May 20, 2009

This week, I waited and waited for a phone call. My stomach was constantly in knots. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, and I couldn’t stop crying. I wanted to know my dogs’ future, one way or another.

I tried to convince myself that it was the “gum disease” (Gingival Hyperplasia) that Martin had mentioned, but I think that deep down, I know what the result would be.

We received a call from the vet on the night of Wednesday 20th May 2009. Unfortunately, we were shopping and missed the call. The messages he left on our answer machine left me feeling sick to my stomach. His voice sounded like that of someone who was bringing bad news. The vets were now shut and we had to wait until morning.

The following morning, ironically enough, I’d booked in to have a tattoo. A “Barney” tattoo and I decided to go ahead and have it done because I’d wanted it done for so long and it would be an everlasting ode to Barney. I told my partner that if he heard anything, to not let me know until I was home. I didn’t want to hear any bad news over the phone.

Today was Barney’s biopsy. I was terrified. He was none the wiser.

I hated the thought of him having a general anaesthetic, let alone having to await the result of this “lump”.

We arrived at 9am, booked him in and a nurse went through the form with us for his medical history, current medications and the process of the general anaesthetic. We told her his stomach issue had completely cleared up.

We’d found a lump in Barney’s side, on his flank a couple of days earlier, so decided to mention this to the nurse and she asked if we wanted it to be removed if Martin thought it was necessary whilst Barney was under anyway. We agreed for it to be removed if necessary.

We watched Barney being led away and I broke down. I hated leaving him. We were told to call at 2.30pm to check on his progress.

At 2.30pm, we called and we were told that he was just out of surgery and was doing well. They asked us to call back at 4pm and they’d then tell us when we could collect him. Eventually, we collected him at 5pm.

He looked fine, a bit wobbly, but normal Barney. It was absolutely fantastic to see him. The lump in his side had been removed and sent off for analysis with the mouth biopsy.

We should have the results within a week to ten days.

Longest wait of our lives begins now…

I had taken Barney to the vets on Friday because he’d had diarrhoea for a few days after being wormed. I wasn’t too worried because this had happened the last couple of times he had been wormed but since I am an over-anxious dog owner, I like to get him checked out anyway. On Friday the vet told me to change his food to chicken and rice for a couple of days and that he should be fine. His tummy wasn’t at all tender and he looked as bright as ever.

Monday morning, I woke up and found he was being sick by his bed. It was just bile but I was still worried none-the-less. He’d emptied his bowels in between being sick and me making a vets appointment, which funnily enough was back to normal. I was in two minds as to whether or not I should leave him another day or not and see how he went but I decided to call for an appointment anyway and an hour later, we were at the vets.

I saw the same vet, Martin, a lovely guy from either Australia or New Zealand. He remembered Barney and proceeded to ask questions about what had happened and got down to eye level with Barney to have a look at him.

Before he even got around to having a feel of his tummy, he said, “come here Barnes, what’s that?”

At this point, I had no idea what he was referring to. He then asked my partner and myself how long Barney had had this “lump” in his mouth. As soon as he said the word “lump” I felt light-headed and sick, already thinking the worse.

He explained that he had a black “lump” or “growth” on his gum, but because Barney was excited and had his tongue flopped out, he couldn’t get a good look. I managed to see what he was referring to though and was instantly worried.

I asked what it could be, already knowing the answer… a tumour.

He proceeded to explain that it could be a melanoma or it could be something similar to gum disease. He told us to keep a very close eye on it and that they may want to biopsy it. I asked if they could do that NOW, anyway. He agreed but said that he would wait a few days to be sure his stomach upset had passed and told us to book him in at the front desk. We booked his biopsy for Thursday 14th May 2009.

Our dog, Barney, a 10-year-old Golden Retriever/Springer Spaniel cross, was diagnosed with an oral melanoma on 21st May 2009. This came as a great shock and the process to begin treatment happened very quickly. I’d like to share his story with you because I don’t think that there is enough information regarding canine oral melanoma available. Most dog owners will have never heard of it, nor would they know what to look for. I was not aware that this type of cancer occurs more commonly in the following dogs;

Black/dark dogs
Male dogs
Dogs aged between 9 years and 12 years

Had I known this, being an already very over protective and over cautious pet owner, I’d have been much more vigilant and looked out for signs of early cancer; especially as Barney is a black, male dog, aged 10+ years.

The following excerpt/information is taken from this website:

http://www.petcancervaccine.com/melanoma/oral.shtml

Early Signs of Canine Oral Melanoma

Most oral tumors are not noticed early, because it can be difficult for a dog owner to look inside the dog’s mouth. As a result, many tumors go undiagnosed — and untreated — until they are advanced. By then, the dog has a poorer chance of recovery.

Fortunately, tumors in the mouth, including canine oral melanomas, are easy for your veterinarian to detect during a routine oral examination. This can mean the difference between life and death for many dogs.

Dog owners can help identify the presence of tumors by looking for secondary signs, including:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding
  • Loss of teeth
  • Facial swelling

If you notice any of these signs, it is always a good idea to notify your veterinarian. Your veterinarian knows best how to proceed to diagnose cancer or eliminate it as a concern for you.

Part of the diagnosis for oral tumors often includes a biopsy, or removing a small tissue sample from the tumor and sending it to a laboratory for analysis. Your veterinarian also may use x-rays or other diagnostic tools the help stage the cancer.