It’s a week today (Thursday) since we lost Barney. It’s been one of the toughest weeks we’ve ever faced as a family, it’s been horrible. We cry every day and life is very different.

Barney was such a happy, bouncy, bright dog. He had a special presence and he lit up a room. He seemed to touch everyone he came into contact with. People have been devastated at the news of his passing. It brings us some comfort to know how much he was loved by others too. The messages, cards, flowers and a special gift to name a star after him have been very much appreciated.

The house feels very empty. It lacks life. There seems to be too much space now and we’re not liking it. I moved here in January 2001 with Barney; this was prior to Matt moving to Peterborough, so Barney and I have never been apart. It’s a big adjustment and it’s going to take a long time to come to terms that he has gone.

Today was a very emotional day. Barney had his final journey. Fortunately, that journey was with us, his Mummy and Daddy. Matt and I travelled to Northampton, to PCS (Pet Cremation Services) as we’d arranged for his cremation at 11.30am. We wanted to be there, just to feel close and so he’d not feel alone. It also meant that we could bring him home the same day too; something we really wanted to do.

Whilst we waited, we visited the chapel of rest. We chose not to see Barney, we felt that the memories we have of when we last saw him were calm and pleasant. We want to keep those memories. In the chapel of rest, we created a page in a Book Of Condolence for Barney. We added three beautiful pictures of him in the snow, and wrote a message each and also one from Luke. That was really hard to do but will remain a lasting tribute for others who visit there to see how gorgeous he was and how much love his family had (and still have) for him.

We chose his casket for his ashes and also ordered a “Pawstone”. This is a kind of headstone for dogs and cats, and can be set into stone, laid on grass or put on a wall etc. It’ll have a plaque which will have his name on and a personal message from us. We plan to choose a flowering plant with a special meaning for the garden and make a pretty corner which is dedicated to Barney. There he will have his Pawstone, his special plants and we want to have an acrylic block with his picture made to add there too. It’ll be his memorial in the garden.

Inside the house, his ashes will remain. We don’t want to bury them. We want him in the house with us. He was always in here with us so we feel it’s appropriate now too. We’ve already printed 600 pictures of Barney and placed them all into albums and we have somewhere around another 600-1000 to go. I’m also getting everything together to make a scrapbook of his life. I want to do something extra special for him. He won’t be forgotten and we’re reminding Luke every day. He’s been quite affected by the loss of his big brother. 😦

We went home via the vets surgery today and asked to see the vet who we’d been seeing for 9 or 10 months now, Martin. We wanted to thank him for everything he had done for Barney. Without him, we would most likely have lost Barney several months ago, so we’re very grateful that because he was so vigilant and on the ball, we had an extra 8 months with our boy. I’ll be eternally grateful for that. Martin always did the best by Barney. He never made us feel silly when we kept going back and forth. No-one would have known what was going on inside him without the extensive tests he underwent. Barney was such a fit dog, overall, it was easy for him to fool even the best vet. He managed to fool me right up until a fortnight ago and that was purely just his breathing that gave it away.

Martin seemed to be devastated. He came down and told us that he was really sorry and said “that one hurt”. He meant that hearing about Barney hurt him too. It was nice he felt the same. I guess some dogs just hit the right spot and Barney seemed to with Martin. I think it’s simply because he was always so full of life, never complained or moaned no matter what needed to be done to him and he was just always so happy. I guess as with humans, you just ‘click’ better with some than others.

We’ve speculated between ourselves over the past week that the cancer that had taken over his body, stemmed from the oral melanoma that he was originally diagnosed with. I was a little upset that we’d not got onto the vaccine, but in this instance, it wouldn’t have saved Barney. The cancer he had was not melanoma and that’s what the vaccine protected against, so even if he’d had it, the tumour in his spleen and around his heart would still have metastasised. It’s very likely that when he had his oral surgery, that some cells had already made their way into his body and started growing slowly. They’d not have been picked up on an X-Ray, and most likely not even an MRI Scan, purely because they can only go 3mm deep or something like that (Martin tried to explain today about imaging and that it’s not always reliable). The X-Ray that Barney had in May was clear and so was the lymph node that was removed. I guess it was in very early stages and couldn’t be detected. The splenic tumour would not have shown up in any bloods that had been done as it’s one organ that can’t be detected through blood screening. Ironic. It shows why his bloods were always spot on and caused no worries. The mass in his spleen also couldn’t be palpated through his abdomen, funnily enough, because he was such a fit dog. He was very muscular and this would have hidden what was felt easily once he was sedated and everything was relaxed. Again, ironic. His own body hid the trauma that was going on inside, just because it was outwardly, so fit.

We thanked Martin and although we told him we won’t be seeing him again as we won’t be having another pet of any kind, we both agreed that we will miss him. He’s been quite a big part of all of our lives, on and off since May, and he is just such a likable, genuine person. I wish him all the luck in the world. He’s an asset to the Best Friends practice.

It’s hard to write this, but in a way, I feel I need to. Nothing is ‘normal’ anymore. Life has changed forever and the changes are so noticeable. Things feel ‘easy’, but not in a good way. Our routine feels wrong. The lack of walking, feeding, cleaning up, brushing, letting out, making sure there is always fresh water, a clean bed, and most of all, cuddles and kisses, are all missing. Things that have been part of a routine for 11 years has just stopped without warning. It’s a very difficult adjustment.

I know some people will think by now that we should be over it, he was just a dog, but to us, he wasn’t. He was a massive part of this family. A quarter of it to be exact. It’s a huge chunk to lose.

We love you Barney, and we miss you so much. We know you’re still here with us and will be forever in our hearts. Sleep well baby x x x x x

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Barney’s story has now been published on the official Dogs Trust website. You can see it here;

http://dogstrustblog.blogspot.com/2009/09/canine-oral-melanoma-mouth-cancer.html

I’ve been trying to get the word out about oral melanoma in dogs, purely because, as I have said so many times, it’s something that a lot of dog owners will never even think about, will never come across or will find out about, often when it’s too late.

I’ve mainly been using Twitter and Facebook to post details of this blog and have made a few friends on the way.

I support Dogs Trust UK and Matt and I also sponsor a dog each through them. We have done so now for several years. I started following them a few weeks ago and approached them and asked if they would be interested in featuring Barney’s story (either on their website or magazine). Alex from dogs Trust contacted the right people and they accepted. They think it’s a good topic to highlight and is important.

I’ve therefore submitted a shortened version of Barney’s story to them this morning with a few pictures and it should be available on their blog either today or Monday.

I’m really pleased about this as it will make plenty of people aware of this disease that leaves dog owners feeling empty when they lose their beloved dogs to it. Being educated on such issues is important. I had no idea about this but if I was, although our outcome has been brilliant and a huge success, I’d have been checking earlier too…

Thank you Alex at Dogs Trust. Keep up your good work!

I’ve also submitted pictures and a short story to the “Puppy Up” website. This site is full of stories, some happy, some painfully sad, but all about fights with canine cancer. They are producing a calendar called “Cancer Can’t Keep A Good Dog Down 2010” after last years calendar was so successful. The site is here: http://www.puppyup.blogspot.com/ and is also linked to 2 Dogs 2000 Miles site; http://www.2dogs2000miles.org/ Please take a look. What Luke Robinson is doing is amazing. He’s walking 2000 miles across America with his 2 beautiful dogs, Hudson and Murphy after losing a dog to cancer a few years ago. On the way he is stopping and talking to people and educating them about canine cancer.

The calendars will be sold and the dogs’ that are featured will all be dogs that have either passed from or survived cancer.

I decided to enter Barney so please go to the page and vote for him. $1 buys 1 vote. A dollar is nothing, so please, go and vote. Think what you’d waste a buck or 50 pence on today!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Vote “BarneyM” http://www.2dogs2000miles.org/Submissions_NAXV.html

Still Waiting..

August 26, 2009

No news is good news and we’ve had no more news since my last post, about Barney’s vaccine. I’m hoping we will hear something over the next few days and perhaps even get a date when we can drive down and take Barney for his first shot.

Barney is doing great still. Back to his cheeky self. Barking at everything, growling playfully and running around like a loon.

Love it! 🙂

Vaccine Update!

August 6, 2009

Lizzie from Dick White’s called yesterday afternoon around 4.30pm. She apologised for the delay but explained that Rob had been going ‘to and fro’ with the Americans over the vaccine for Barney. It turns out that there is so much red tape around the vaccine being administered here because it is not licensed in the UK, that he’s really had to fight Barney’s case and that’s why it has taken so long. It’s all to do with legislation and I already knew that the vaccine can actually only be given by a vet who is under the American Vets Association or the ACVS or something like that, it’s all a bit confusing to be honest. Fortunately the Professor falls into that category so it can be administered by him.

Anyway, she explained that Rob had been fighting. Lots of emails and phonecalls, putting forward Barney’s case and the good news is that that he WON! Barney can most certainly have the vaccine 😀

We’re so pleased. We’re looking at around another 2 weeks or so because the Americans want some more forms filling in by Rob. This is what we’ve been waiting for, another step in the right direction 😀

Here are some pictures of Barney. Some are taken before his surgery, some are immediately after his surgery and some are from the weeks following his surgery. I have also included a couple of pictures before and after the re-suturing took place.

I hope that these pictures can manage to show you that this was a very serious surgery, however, that the effect on Barney was minimal and the cosmetics after the surgery were nowhere near as bad as we had imagined.

I hope that anyone out there reading this blog and trying to make a decision as to whether or not they should go for this surgery for their dog; if they are lucky enough to have that option; will see that it will all be worth it in the end.

This is Barney with our son at our local nature reserve, a few days before his biopsy.

Barney Before Diagnosis

As you can see, he was full of energy as always.

Barney Before Op

Barney Post Op Again

You can see that when he was panting that his tongue hung out rather long anyway.

Post Op Again

Full frontal of his mouth prior to the mandibulectomy.

preop

This picture shows the tumour. It is the black area between his teeth. Easily missed.

Tumour Visible

And another picture of the tumour. Hard to get a very clear snap of it. The majority is hidden underneath his tongue.

tumour2

A tired Barney after his biopsy on 14th May 2009.

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His mast cell tumour wound.

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The last picture of Barney taken before his mandibulectomy. This is the last picture ever taken with his “full” mouth in view. Taken 26th May 2009.

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First picture taken post-op. He’d been shaved so it kind of looked worse than it was. Taken 29th May 2009.

postop1

On the way home in the car after surgery. Happy as can be!

postop3

Barney, at home, 3 days after surgery. Looking fabulous! Taken 30th May 2009.

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Dinner time, post op. Quite messy, as you can see.

dinnertime

Front view of mouth post op. He’s wet because of needing to be washed down after eating. Hence the “trimmed” ears.

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**Slightly Graphic** Picture of burst sutures. Here, you can see the jawbone on display. This was re-sutured under a General Anaesthetic.

barneyburstsutures

Looking sorry for himself on the way back to Dick White’s to be re-sutured.

beebsorryforself

Re-sutured. We think it looked better this time.

resuture

Back home and on very restricted walks with a special lead and a recovery collar.

postopwalk

Post op and healing well…

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How he looks when he is laying down. Pretty much always has his tongue in his mouth.

postoplyingdown

Post op and after a bath, finally! I cut his ears short to stop them getting covered in food but can’t wait for them to grow long again!

postopafterbath

8 weeks post op. Looking so good. We don’t even notice the change anymore. It’s just the same old Barney when we look at him 🙂 Taken 29th July 2009.

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You can see just how nicely his mouth has healed, here. Taken 29th July 2009.

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It’s now 7 weeks since Barney’s mandibulectomy and 6 weeks since he was re-sutured. His mouth is looking entirely normal, well, as normal as it can with part of the jaw missing, but, to be honest, we barely even notice that anymore when we look at him.

There were a few red spots in there for a little while, but they’re now gone, healed and the surgical area is looking fantastic. You’d literally never know he’d had such an invasive surgery. If it wasn’t for his tongue hanging out all the time, you could easily forget what he’s been through.

We think it adds character though.

This week has seen the “old Barney” return. The cheekiness, naughtiness and all the barking when he wants to play. It’s been brilliant. He is such fun. You’d never guess he is going to be 11 years old in 3 months time.

This just all re-confirms that the decision we made to have this surgery done, was for sure, the right decision for Barney. It’d have been a real mistake for us to have ended his life (never an option for us anyway) because the surgery sounded horrific. The truth of the matter is that your mind builds things up to be much worse than they are and when you see the reality of the situation, after the initial shock, it’s really, really, not that bad at all.

I love my fun-loving boy to bits. I’m so glad he is here and so glad he is well. Go, Barney! You’re amazing! 🙂

Getting Anxious

July 14, 2009

It’s been 7 weeks since Barney’s surgery now and we’ve still not head anything more since the Open Day at Dick White’s about the vaccine.

Rob said he had a nag in the back of his mind about cells having broken off and travelling elsewhere, so wanted him on the vaccine as soon as possible, and that nag for me is just turning into something so big now that I can’t sleep at night. It’s stressing me out.

We’ve not heard from Rob. Not his fault, he is a very busy man, but I do wish we could just have a phone call to let us know what is happening and when he’s likely to start the vaccine program.

Will try and call him again tomorrow.

The specialist vets that Barney had his mandibulectomy done at, held an Open Day today. I wanted to go so that we could see where Barney had been during his stay there and just generally have a nose around.

We couldn’t all go because one of us had to stay with Barney, as he is only a week post-op since his second suturing. It’s a shame because I’d have loved for Matt to come along too but he offered to stay home whilst I went with Luke, my sister and my niece.

We arrived at midday and headed straight for the reception area. There were mps available, which were all numbered to show you what each area was and what they did there. All of the practice was set up with stuffed toy dogs to give an idea of what happens at each station. Some were having IV fluids, others were having scans etc. All good fun.

We went into the theatre (surgery) and they had a big screen set up with images of lots of different dogs before, during and after surgery. Some of the before and during pictures were quite shocking, but the aftermath of those was amazing. These people really are talented. I’m so impressed at the skills they hold.

Whilst we were standing watching the screen, pictures of a dog’s mouth came up on the screen and in the corner were the words “mandibulectomy” and I thought, ‘oh, that’s what Barney had done’. The next thing I know, there he is! Barney! Famous! There was a picture of him after his surgery, sitting there, in front of the camera, tongue hanging out, looking a little tired but otherwise fine, with a big plastic collar on. I was amazed. He must have been one of their more challenging or “different” cases. I’m not sure how many of these they actually get to perform because so many dogs have this type of cancer and it’s not found until it is too late. I was very proud to see our boy on the big screen. Even my sister was shocked. He looked gorgeous too 🙂

We continued through the practice, and bumped into Rob. He came over and said hello, said hello to Luke as he did on the previous occasions we’d met and then he told me that the vaccine had been approved and Barney could have it, however, there is a lot of ‘red tape’ surrounding the entire thing so it’d be a couple of weeks before he could tell us anymore, but he would contact us as soon as he had any further news. I was really pleased and called Matt straight away to tell him about Barney being on the ‘big screen’ and also about the vaccine 🙂

The rest of the practice was just amazing, they have their own laboratory, MRI scanning unit and so many different departments, the entire place is fresh and clean and has that “new” feel to it. It’s so, so, impressive.

As we headed outside, we bumped into Professor Dick White. He seemed to know who I was before I’d even spoken to thank him for all he did for Barney. He said it was no problem and asked how he was. He was very much ‘that’s what I do, no need to thank me” which in a way was nice because he didn’t make you feel like you owe him anything, which of course we feel we do. We really do. He and Rob did such a marvellous job with Barney, and so quickly too, that we feel we owe his life to them (and of course Martin Cossey at Broadway).

After a look around, I bought Luke a Moon Bear cuddly toy, which he lost within 5 minutes, so I went back and bought another. The Moon Bears are something that the Prof deals with. He is working endlessly to help end the suffering if these bears in Asia. The lives they lead are just plainly awful. See the link below for more details.

Anyway, all in all, we enjoyed the couple of hours we were there. We saw lots and got a good view of exactly where Barney was cared for, which was nice. Next time, all 4 of us will go. 🙂

http://www.animalsasia.org/

I’d noticed a small amount of something that looked like blood on some bedding and mentioned it to Matt. I was also a little concerned at a tiny white area in Barney’s mouth, but Matt told me it was fine and just part of his mouth, so I tried not to think about it. We decided the next morning (Thursday 4th June 2009) that we’d get an appointment with our local vet (Martin) anyway, just to get it checked out and make sure that everything was healing as it should be because I’d noticed a little more blood.

We got up, got ready, and as Matt was dressing Luke, a call came through from Rob at Dick White’s. With anticipation, I waited to hear what he had to say. I knew he was calling with the results from the jaw tissues that were removed, along with the lymph node.

At 9.40am, we were on top of the world. Things seriously couldn’t have been better. I was crying with joy and relief when Rob told me that the margin of jaw they had taken had been free both ends, which meant they got every last piece of the tumour in his mouth. He also told me that the lymph node was clear too. The cancer had NOT spread there which means that it was contained. We were so pleased; I just can’t describe the feeling.

We didn’t get long to talk about it as our appointment time was looming and we needed to get sorted. We took Luke’s pushchair out of the car, just leaving his little buggy in as we always do when we have Barney in the car, and since we’d be straight back, we left his bag of nappies etc behind too. We wouldn’t need anything…. or so we thought….

Just as we were about to walk out of the door, Matt put Barney’s harness on and straight away, he pulled at it with his mouth. Matt and I both told him “no” and he eventually dropped it, only to grab it again. When I looked at him, something just didn’t look right. I started panicking and noticed that his mouth now looked very white inside. I asked Matt over and over what it was and came to my own conclusion that it was his jaw. He’d popped all his stitches!! I think he knew it was his jaw that was visible, but didn’t quite want to believe it and was in a state of panic like me. Next problem was… how the hell do we get this crazy dog from the house and into the car without him doing himself any more damage. For the 20-second walk to the car, we had to be very harsh with him for his own sake. Once in the car he just sat there looking rather sorry for himself.

We drove, rather quickly, to our vet. We didn’t even get Barney out of the car. I ran in, said we had a 10am appointment and asked if Martin was free straight away. (We are very well known at our local vets surgery). The receptionist, Leanne, shouted for him and he came out and I asked him to come and see Barney in the car. I explained what had happened and why we were coming to see him originally. When he got to the car, I lifted the boot door and Martin just laughed. He looked at Barney and said “Oh Barnes, what have you done”. It was a typically funny moment, simply because Barney is such a character, it’s as if people expect this kind of thing to happen with him. He’s just so boisterous, so clumsy. He assured us it wasn’t quite as bad as it seemed, and confirmed that, yes; it IS his bone we were looking at. That made me feel ill, I couldn’t look at it. You never expect to see something so graphic on your own dog.

Matt had already called ahead to Dick White’s and they’d told us to drive down. They said it’s be a resuture but he’d have it done under sedation so we just expected to spend the day in Newmarket until we could collect him. We’d been given an appointment for Midday but we were there by 11.15am. I went in and told them we were there and they said they’d be as quick as possible. We decided Barney was better off in the back of the car, rather than sitting in reception getting all excited. No more than a few minutes later, one of the staff came out and called us in. He took one look at Barney and confirmed that his mouth would need resuturing and that it’d need to be done under General Anaesthetic. I knew this meant another overnight stay. I was gutted and worried. This would be his third General Anaesthetic in three weeks.

The vet this time was Lorenzo (Unfortunately, Rob was tied up and Barney was there as an emergency). Lorenzo didn’t really know Barney’s history but he knew what he’d had done. He took us into the same room as we’d been in last time we dropped off and picked him up.

He went through a few things with us, had us sign the consent form and explained that he would need to stay for 24 to 48 hours but it would more likely be 48 hours which meant we’d not see him for 2 nights. I was devastated but I knew this had to be done.

We had a cuddle and Barney trotted off without a care in the world. Staying over at the vets is a real adventure, right? Nothing fazes him, which is good I guess. I’d rather he was happy there than have him sitting whining the whole time and being entirely depressed.

As we watched him go through the door, we spotted Rob, who in turn, spotted us and came out to talk. He, like Martin, was half laughing at what had happened and said that perhaps they’d undermined just how boisterous Barney is and that this time they would reinforce the sutures (put more in). He assured us he would be fine and just said that the histology was brilliant and that he was really happy.

So again, we drove off, leaving Barney behind to face another general anaesthetic and another stay with the vets. Not fun and I wasn’t happy, but I did see the funny side to it and at least this time we knew it was minor surgery compared to a week ago.

We had to go home this time and await our updates.

By 3pm we had a call. It was Lorenzo confirming that the surgery was done; Barney was fine and was recovering (again). Phew. I cried with relief. I just hated the idea of that third general anaesthetic. We had regular updates from them and on Saturday 6th June 2009, 48 hours after we’d left him, we drove to Newmarket again and picked him up. He looked better this time. Different. A bit more “normal”. He’d had more sutures, but his jowls seemed to be pulled up more, making the surgery seem less apparent. It’s difficult to describe. I will add pictures as soon as possible to show what I mean.

It was great bringing him home again. We vowed this time that we really would treat him with kid gloves and went back to adding water to his food again as we’d only done it for 3 or 4 days last week as he seemed to be doing so well.

Once again, our family unit felt complete and our house felt like a home again 🙂