Making antibodies. The two most beautiful words in the world to the dog parents whose fur babies are enrolled in the Yale Canine Cancer Vaccine clinical trial. Campy and I got the good news in September, about 10 days after submitting our three blood samples.
The idea, and our greatest hope, is that the presence of antibodies means that immune responses are happening that will reduce and stop tumor growth, with the ultimate goal of eliminating tumors.
To backtrack a bit, Campy was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his left hind leg in early January of this year. He underwent successful amputation surgery in late January. A course of six Carboplatin treatments followed. A lung X-ray taken during his final chemo treatment in June showed a spot on his right lung that had not been present in two previous X-rays.
A crushing disappointment for sure! Everything had gone so well until then. Campy tolerated the amp surgery and came through his chemotherapy with flying colors.
The Yale vaccine trial was our last hope for Campy to truly kick cancer’s ass. He continues to suffer from sterile abscesses near the injection sites, which are a side effect and continued reaction to the vaccine.
They are unpleasant and make Campy uncomfortable, but are indicative that he is producing a strong antibody reaction.
Campy will be getting a follow-up X-ray on October 27, to see where we’re at with the lung met that first appeared in June.
October 27, is also Campy’s first Gotcha Day! This is a huge milestone for all of us, and that we would be able to celebrate this day was little more than a wishful fantasy dream back in January.
So while there is trepidation about what the X-rays will reveal, there is tremendous joy that Campy is still with us and continues to enjoy a good quality of life.
Campy has now had his two Yale Canine Cancer Vaccine injections. The first one was on July 14, and Campy showed no reaction to it at all. His second injection on August 5, is turning out to be quite eventful.
Within a couple of days Campy became very tender at the injection site, on the right side of his neck. He cried out when he tugged on his leash and put pressure on his neck from his collar. A lump soon developed on his neck, which was an expected potential side-effect of the vaccine in some dogs.
A significantly larger lump that developed on Campy’s back between his shoulder blades was a mystery and quite concerning. The first injection was done on the left side of his neck. Neither injection was done on his back.
I started applying warm compresses to both swelling sites in the hope of getting them to open up and drain. This is the recommended protocol from Yale to deal with these “sterile abscesses.”
The lump on Campy’s neck soon opened up and started draining. It didn’t appear to cause him too much discomfort. So that much was going pretty much by the anticipated side-effects playbook. But the lump on his back remained hard as a rock and continued to grow. I made an appointment for Campy to see our local vet and reached out to Dr. Mark Mamula at Yale, who is in charge of the vaccine trial. He told me that the neck abscess looked quite typical of what he’s seen in other dogs in the study. He also said that it is very rare that a reaction to the vaccine would occur at a location other than the injection site.
Having dealt with two dogs in 10 months having cancer, I’m hyper-leery of any lump, bump or mis-step I notice on my dogs now.
Dr. Mamula suggested our local vet do a needle biopsy of the big back lump. That was the plan for our August 12, appointment. But the lump was too hard to yield any fluid. It was also very painful for Campy. It turned out Campy was running a fever of 103.5, so we came home with antibiotics and Gabapentin for his pain.
Campy was to go back to the vet in two days for a follow-up and to have the lump excised, if it hadn’t opened up on its own with continued warm compresses.
The next day, I noticed the lump finally starting to soften up. Sure enough, it opened up with a vengeance in the middle of the night. Campy was in major discomfort and paced around the house trying to get comfortable, despite the Gabapentin. The next morning our house looked like a crime scene, but at least the giant lump had opened up on its own and wouldn’t have to be surgically excised. The vet did what he could to shave Campy around both accesses to help with their draining.
This weekend I have been continuing with the warm compresses and making sure the wounds keep draining and don’t scab over and start swelling again. I’m continuing with the Gabapentin and the antibiotics. Campy seems to be more comfortable now.
Two positives on which to end this: One being that based on the study results so far, dogs that have experienced abscesses after one or both of their vaccine injections have typically produced antibodies…which is the ultimate goal, to attack and kill malignant tumor cells. So fingers crossed that Campy’s discomfort the past two weeks will have been worthwhile. He’s to have his third and final blood draw on August 31, which will be sent to Yale, along with the previous two to be tested for antibody production. For more on the Yale Canine Cancer Vaccine Study check out my last blog post or click on the highlighted link.
The second good thing to happen recently is the installation this weekend of Campy’s Wheel.
This is original artwork created by the son of an old radio friend of mine, just for Campy. It is inspired by Campagnolo cycling components, for which Campy is named. It is an incredibly beautiful and thoughtful gift. And a random act of kindness for a very special dog who has been through a lot of tough times and has touched a lot of hearts with his story.
Campagnolo had his sixth and final chemotherapy treatment on June 10.
He came through it like a champ, as always. And, as always, he charmed our vet and the entire staff at Cascade Veterinary Clinic.
I had our vet take another set of chest X-rays. Unfortunately, they show an ominous spot on his lung that wasn’t there in the last two X-rays taken in January and March. This is really soul-crushing news. Campy had been doing so well up until now.
We knew lung mets were a likelihood going into all this, but we feel we have given Campy five good months he probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. So, no regrets over anything we have done for him.
Campy is still feeling fine. He is happy, alert, affectionate, has a great appetite, and talks a lot to things outside that we don’t see or hear.
This is a clinical trial of a new therapeutic vaccine for canine cancers including osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma and other related EGFR/HER2 cancers. The hope is to activate the dog’s own white blood cells to produce antibodies to attack growing tumors.
Campy had to wait three weeks after his last chemo treatment to start the vaccine program. He is scheduled to get his first injection on July 8.
It feels kind of like a Hail Mary pass, but we want to try everything we can to save Campy.
On a happier note, Campy celebrated his 5th Birthday on May 23, with Tiger and their friend Eldo. Back in January, when Campy was first diagnosed with osteosarcoma, our first goal was to try to get him to his birthday.
We will work to keep Campy comfortable and happy for however much time he has left. Our next goal is to get him to his Gotcha Day on October 27.
It’s been nearly three years since my last Dog Blog post. Here’s the Cliff Notes version of those three years: We bought a house and built a garden on our property that’s bigger than the house.
Thanks to my wonderful husband for doing all the work by hand. It was a very labor-intensive project, digging and sinking the posts in concrete, putting up an 8-foot deer fence around the perimeter, spreading topsoil and various organic amendments, along with a myriad of other things to make this magical garden happen.
The end result has been walking out of our door and into our own personal organic produce section. The snow has melted and we are starting to prepare for Season 3 now.
Our two greyhounds, Tiger and Truman adapted instantly to the new house. They, like us, seem to have felt a true sense of home after four moves in as many years.
We settled into new routines in our new neighborhood and life blissfully went on. Then, around Labor Day of 2019, Truman developed a limp in his right front leg.
Knowing a number of greyhounds and other sighthounds that have succumbed to Osteosarcoma, we were very concerned and took Truman to our local vet right away. Our vet determined the source of Truman’s discomfort to be in his right shoulder. X-rays taken of his shoulder were inconclusive and showed no apparent tumor. Based on that, the thought was that Truman was suffering from a deep tissue injury.
We began treating him with anti-inflammatories, along with massage therapy and acupuncture from a holistic vet here in the Methow Valley. She noticed that the vertebrae in Truman’s neck appeared to be abnormally close in the X-ray and sent it to a radiologist. Again, inconclusive. After two weeks of holistic treatment, Truman showed no improvement. In fact, he was getting markedly worse. Ever-increasing dosages of pain meds were required to keep him comfortable.
I took him back to our regular vet to do another set of X-rays on Oct. 1. This time, those X-rays clearly showed the presence of a large tumor growing in his shoulder. Truman was rapidly declining, each day exponentially so. He was doped up with double doses of Tramadol and Gabapentin. We made the tough decision to say goodbye to Truman on Oct. 4, 2019.
Absolutely heartbreaking, but truly the right thing to do. Five months later, and it is still difficult for me to write about this.
Eric and I were not the only ones devastated by Truman’s death. Tiger became despondent, deeply missing his best friend. Tiger chose Truman to come live with us back in 2012, after meeting several other greyhounds at Greyhound Pets, Inc.
We knew that Tiger, now 10-and-a-half years old, didn’t want to be an only dog and that we needed to get a new friend for him. So in late October, we drove over the mountains to GPI in Woodinville, WA to let Tiger find a new best friend. We met several dogs and narrowed our choice to three. Out of those three, Tiger and Campagnolo hit it off the best.
We brought Campagnolo, Campy for short, home on Oct. 27, 2019. He settled in beautifully. Tiger and Campy bonded instantly. We all fell in love with Campy.
Fall turned into winter and we all enjoyed watching the season change. Campy, like all our other greyhounds, loved playing in the snow. He’s a very energetic 4-year-old dog.
The holidays came and went and we humans started to settle into our winter routines of skiing, fat-biking and snowshoeing.
Then, around New Year’s I noticed some unevenness in Campy’s gait. Within days he developed a pronounced limp. Campy hadn’t even been with us for two months. It hadn’t been three months since we said goodbye to Truman.
We wasted no time getting Campy in for an X-ray. We started seeing a noticeable swelling on his right hind tarsus joint. Our local vet didn’t like what he saw on the X-ray and recommended that we take Campy to a specialty vet clinic in Wenatchee, two hours south of us, where they have more sophisticated digital X-ray machines. So we did, and the higher-quality X-rays revealed the presence of a tumor. We also had Campy’s chest X-rayed as the lungs are the mostly like place for bone cancer to metastasize. The three views taken of Campy’s lungs were clean and showed no metastasis.
With the tumor growing rapidly and Campy in considerable pain, we made the decision to amputate his leg, and follow-up with chemotherapy. The amputation surgery happened on January 21, 2020.
Campy showed remarkable resilience and was up walking hours after coming out of anesthesia. I brought him home a couple of days later.
A biopsy of the tumor confirmed Osteosarcoma. Our vet also had the lymph node in the affected leg biopsied. That showed a fair amount of inflammation, but no cancer. The weeks leading up to and immediately after Campy’s diagnosis and amp surgery were consumed by searching for, reading, and watching everything I could find about canine Osteosarcoma. Vritually everything I could find gave a fairly grim survival prognosis even with amputation, and amputation combined with chemotherapy. They all talked in terms of months, not years.
I also discovered a couple of clinical trials using immunotherapy vaccines to combat the dreaded Osteosarcoma. I’ve been in touch with a study out of Yale and was able to get Campy enrolled in the Yale Canine Cancer Vaccine Program, which we will do once Campy finishes his chemo.
Our immediate goal is for Campy to see his 5th birthday on May 23. Campy is on a regimen of Carboplatin treatments every three weeks. He had his third treatment on Thursday, so he is now at the halfway point. I had follow-up X-rays taken of his lungs and abdomen. Our vet at the Cascade Veterinary Clinic thought they looked clean. The radiologist who looked at them also said there is no sign of metastasis in either Campy’s lungs or abdomen. So for the first time since going down this carcinogenic rabbit hole with Campy, I am allowing myself to feel somewhat optimistic about his chances.
Part of me feels that the reason I am throwing everything I can think of to fight this with Campy is that I am compensating for losing Truman so rapidly. Is Campy’s resilience and ability to handle the amputation and chemo so well due to his young age? Campy is only 4 vs Truman being over 10. Also, the location of Campy’s tumor, relatively isolated on his lower hind leg made the decision to amputate easier. With Truman’s tumor in his shoulder, I am not sure if amputation would have even been an option for him.
Campy’s surgery and ongoing chemo treatments are all quite expensive. So prior to the current Coronavirus pandemic restrictions, I had already committed to zero travel in 2020. In a way, Campy is saving us. My deepest hope is that we may return the favor to our wonderful boy.
One month. It’s been one month since we made our 20-year dream of living in the Methow Valley a reality. One month since we loaded up all our worldly possessions in a 20 ft U-Haul truck and left our home of two-and-a-half years in Portland’s Pearl District for Winthrop, Washington.
Not exactly a journey of a thousand miles.
400 miles to be exact, and eight hours of driving some of the most beautiful scenery the country has to offer. We headed east through the Columbia River Gorge to Highway 97, took a left and kept going.
So much beauty. So much light. So dark at night. So many stars.
So many animals. Deer. Birds. More deer.
Cougars. Bobcats. Bats. Bears!
Still more deer. Small dark grey squirrels who yell at me. All. The. Time.
So different from Portland and Seattle, where we have made our home for the last 22 years.
We have talked about living in the Methow since we first started coming out here in 1996. After some tumultuous years, we decided the time was right to make the move.
Will it be a smooth transition after spending my entire adult life living in the heart of downtown Chicago, Seattle and then Portland? Will our decidedly urban hounds, Tiger and Truman settle in and enjoy rural life? Did we do the right thing? Or will this be another fool’s errand? Time will tell…
Flash forward six months. It’s now April 6. Almost 7 months to the day of our move out here. We not only survived, but enjoyed our first winter.
Our first ‘real winter’ in decades brought a true appreciation of living again in a place that experiences all four seasons.
We enjoyed exceptionally good ski and fat biking conditions on the 200km of groomed trails. It’s hard not to like winter all the outdoor activities available in the Valley.
There are still patches of snow on the ground, but it is melting fast and things look dramatically different than they did in mid-February, when we topped out at 40+ inches of snow.
The locals tell us this was a severe winter for the Valley, mainly because there was nearly a full week of double-digit sub-zero temperatures in January.
But this was exactly what we expected winter here would be like. After two years of devastating wildfires, everyone we’ve talked with is appreciative of the healthy snowpack and cooler temperatures, and is cautiously optimistic that this will mean a less-severe fire season.
As we ease into spring, we are seeing and hearing lots of birds, including a resident flock of wild turkeys. The dogs are obsessed with the turkeys almost as much as they are with deer. Which is to say, a lot.
Speaking of the dogs, Tiger and Truman love their new home and have settled in incredibly well.
We got them some super-warm coats and they even liked walking in the sub-zero temps.
The humans have settled in well too. We love it here.
We have two premium coffee roasters. A winery. A brewery. A craft cocktail bar. Decent grocery stores. Three killer bakeries. A handful of great restaurants, including an Italian place that impressed our friends from Italy who stopped by for a visit and some skiing this winter.
We want for nothing here. Pretty amazing for a remote area on the eastern slopes of the North Cascades.
We’ve been super busy the last month with our move to Winthrop, Washingon in the beautiful Methow Valley of North Central Washington. More on that soon.
But today is…
Tiger hopes you’ll consider adopting a black dog from a rescue or shelter. They are adopted less often and killed at a much higher rate than dogs of any other color, both here in the U.S. and worldwide.
Please consider opening your heart to a black dog. You won’t regret adding an elegant new friend to your pack.
Four years ago, on July 16, 2012, our beautiful boy Truman came to live with us.
I remember the first time we met. We had just lost our boy Larry and Tiger was despondent that his best friend was gone. We all were.
But Tiger really, really didn’t want to be an ‘only dog,’ so off we went to Greyhound Pets, Inc to let him pick out a new friend.
After meeting a number of adoptable dogs, a beautiful red fawn boy came out to meet us. Tiger decided right then and there, that this dog was to be his new best friend.
Here’s how it all played out on Facebook:
Truman was fresh off the racetrack and had never lived in a home. So much to learn! Stairs, glass doors, playing with toys, these are all foreign concepts to a newly-retired racing greyhound. He spent his first few hours in his new home staring at his reflection in a full-length mirror in our bedroom.
Truman caught on quickly to playing with toys. He also mastered the fine art of ‘cockroaching’ in no time.
He even found a spot to practice yoga.
Truman’s personality continues to evolve. He has learned to trust and love us. He is a loving and affectionate boy, who has become more confident and sure about his place in the world, and in our hearts.
We love you Truman and look forward to celebrating many more ‘gotcha days’ with you!
As we get ready to flip the calendar to July, we are entering into the annual Days of Dread for many of our dogs. I’m talking about 4th of July fireworks. Celebrating our nation’s birth by firing incendiary devices is cause for a major freakout for many dogs. Our Tiger definiely falls in the fireworks freakout category.
Larry, one of our previous greyhounds, also hated the 4th of July. We used to give him Xanax to help with his anxiety on that day. It never made him forget about the fireworks, but it mellowed him out to the point where he would at least be able to sleep, after retreating to the bathroom.
Our boy Larry
Our Portland neighborhood has turned out to be almost as noisy as our old Seattle neighborhood near the Space Needle, much to Tiger’s chagrin. So we thought some anti-anxiety meds might help him get through the upcoming night of ‘bombs bursting in air.’
Our vet told us she prefers Trazodone to Xanax for dogs and filled a prescription for Tiger.
She also recommended we try it out ahead of the 4th. So we did. Yesterday was our trial run. I gave Tiger some Trazodone at 3:00pm. By 5:00pm he was pretty zonked out.
He was able to go for his regular walk at 6:00, but like a typical Portland stoner he slowly ambled down the street with no sense of purpose. He also stared off into space a lot. Oh, and his balance wasn’t the greatest either, so he peed like a girl dog. He remained in this somnambulant state for the rest of the evening.
Next morning he woke me up with a sloppy kiss at the usual time. Tiger is a very reliable fur alarm. He played with his toys and danced around while I put the leashes on him and Truman. I was ready to declare the Trazodone experiment a success, until halfway through our walk Tiger yakked up that yellow bile that dogs do sometimes on an empty stomach, or after eating grass. He clearly was still feeling the effects of his altered state. After breakfast, he fell sound asleep. My poor boy was clearly nursing a hangover.
I called the vet to report all this and find out it was a typical reaction to Trazodone. We will give Tiger a slightly lower dose on the 4th.
I should add that it’s not the official fireworks displays put on by municipalities that are the problem. It is the clueless yahoos who feel compelled to buy and shoot off their own devices, often for days before and after the actual 4th. The sudden, random exlposions at close range in an otherwise quiet neighborhood are off-putting for most people, and are terrifying for many animals.
Some estimates place fear of fireworks at 40 percent of dogs. Talk to any animal shelter and they’ll tell you that July 5 is their busiest day of the year for runaway dogs.
So please leave the fireworks displays to the professionals and spare the rest of us from your annoying pyrotechnics. Visualize waking up on July 5 with all your fingers intact and the neighborhood dogs enjoying a peaceful day at home.
Our beautiful boy Truman was recently diagnosed with Pannus.
Pannus, or Chronic Superficial Karatitis, is a progressive autoimmune disease of the cornea. No one knows what causes it, but Greyhounds are among a handful of breeds that seem to have a predisposition toward Pannus. Other factors can include living at altitude in very sunny areas. Truman did spend part of his racing career in Colorado, so perhaps that was a contributing factor. However, living in the Pacific Northwest, generally considered to be the low UV light capitol of the U.S. works in our favor going forward.
Signs of Pannus include a pigment infiltrating into the cornea.
Our vet noticed the more obvious brown pigmentation on Truman’s right eye during our annual wellness exam. Truman wasn’t experiencing any obvious discomfort, but our vet wanted him to see a canine opthamolologist right away to figure out what was going on. I was aware of Pannus, and knew of a couple of Greyhounds that had it. But it certainly wasn’t on my radar as a possible cause of Truman’s eye issue. I fully expected to hear that he had simply scratched his eye playing, sniffing bushes with thorns or rubbing his head on something with a sharp edge. The diagnosis though, was Pannus. He also had some corneal ulcers, which were treated with Terramycin, a topical antibiotic. The ulcers responded well to the treatment and were completely healed in a couple of weeks.
There’s no cure for Pannus. We caught the disease early and are managing it with two topical medications to halt the progress of the disease.
Truman will be on the Optimune, a cyclosporine-based ointment for the rest of his life. He’s getting the Prednisone Acetate, a topical steroid, for two months.
UV light exposure plays a major role in Pannus. So it’s important to protect the eyes of the affected dog.
No better way to protect the eyes from dangerous UV rays than with a cool pair of shades. We got Truman a pair of Doggles at The Hip Hound on trendy 23rd Avenue in Portland. Trying on fashionable eyewear is exhausting work. A disco nap was in order after an afternoon of shopping.
Tru doesn’t exactly love his new sunglasses, but he tolerates them…and he sure does look supercool wearing them.
Truman has suffered no visual impairment from Pannus. The month-long therapy has reversed a lot of the blood-vessel in-growth, so we are cautiously optimistic that we have this under control and that our sweet boy has a long life ahead of him as a well- sighted sighthound!
Humans aren’t the only ones who need blood transfusions. Our animal companions can also suffer an emergency requiring life-saving blood products.
Tiger and Truman are among the 125+ canine and feline “Superhero” volunteer blood donors at DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital in Portland.
They donate blood 4 to 6 times a year. And last week was one of those times.
Tiger makes sure all their paperwork is in order.
He was also making sure he didn’t miss out on any treats from Blood Bank Program Director Jill Greene.
Tiger and Truman have been blood donors for about a year and a half. Tiger was first up. He quickly settled into the routine.
Greyhounds are very desirable blood donors because they typically have a universal blood type that any dog can receive. They are also very easy to work with.
Greyhound blood has a higher red blood cell count, lower white blood cell count and lower platelet count than other dog breeds. DoveLewis very carefully screens all their volunteer blood donors, both during the initial consultation and tests the dog’s blood before each donation to make sure everything looks good and they can safely donate that day. Tiger and Truman passed with flying colors!
Now it’s Truman’s turn.
As with Tiger, Truman is super-chill with everything.
Of course the best part of donating blood, as far as Tiger and Truman are concerned, is when it’s all over, and Jill hauls out the toy box. Each dog gets to pick out one new toy to take home.
…and there are more treats involved too!
Each dog donates a pint of blood, which typically goes to dogs here in the Pacific Northwest. But Jill told us, just the day before we came in, DoveLewis sent blood to a veterinary clinic in Palm Beach, Florida.
Each donation appointment lasts about a half-hour. We humans hang out with the boys during the whole process.
If you think your dog would make a good volunteer blood donor, you can learn more about it on DoveLewis‘ website. Blood bank info is found on the Community Services tab at the top of their homepage.