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.


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.


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


His mast cell tumour wound.


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Post op and healing well…


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


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!


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.


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


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! 🙂

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. 🙂

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 🙂

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.