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BARKING FOR LIFE!
Update... after 26 chemo treatments, Dirk is healthy and cancer free! Join him on Aug. 25th at the Bark for Life in Lockport! I'll see you there!
On Facebook- Bark For Life of WNY
or Dirk's Bark For Life
Canine with cancer is now a crusader
Jenn and Butch Markee with Weimaraners Dirk (front) Loren and Vixen enjoy Krull park during a break from Dirk’s cancer treatment.
Jenn Markee is no stranger to cancer. As a committee member for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life held in Lockport, she spends a lot of time raising money and awareness for the cancer-fighting cause. Jenn and husband Charles (Butch) share their home with three feisty Weimaraners named Dirk, Loren and Vixen. Just before the big RFL event this past June, cancer reared its ugly head where it was least expected.
Dr. Charles McCausland and veterinary technician Ken Klino Jr. with Dirk during a chemotherapy session at Wrights Corners Animal Care Center.
“On June 11, Dirk’s stomach bloated up to more than twice its normal size and we made an appointment with the vet for first thing Monday morning. When the vet tech put him on the scale he was almost 20 pounds heavier than he had been the last time they weighed him. This concerned Dr. Charles (McClausland), who wanted to run some tests. Butch and I had been worried about Bloat, a condition that causes the stomach to swell and twist; bloat is believed to be the second leading cause of death in dogs, after cancer. Dr. Charles did not seem to be concerned about Bloat in Dirk, and by the time we received the phone call that afternoon, the word “tumors” was being tossed around, “ said Jenn.
“By Wednesday, after a very heart wrenching visit with Dr. Bethann Lewis where we reviewed Dirk’s tumor ridden X-rays, all indicators pointed toward cancer. Dr. Lewis wanted to run a spleen biopsy, followed later by a liver biopsy. We had an official diagnosis of Stage IV Lymphoma (which had metastasized to his liver and spleen) on June 17,” she continued.
Dirk was put on Prednisone the next day as a pre-chemo treatment for the swelling in his liver and started chemotherapy nine days later. Jenn must take Dirk in early in the morning to have his white blood cell count checked, to be sure it has not dropped too low to allow treatment. Then Dirk stays for his intravenous treatment. “The animal does not always have to stay all day but with some drugs they need to be monitored for some time after, said Dr. McCausland. “With drugs like Cyclophosphamide we keep the animal on IV fluids all day and with Vincristine, flushes before and after are enough. Each drug has its own specific protocol.”
For Dirk, the first eight weeks were back-to-back Wednesday chemotherapy sessions, consisting of alternating between Cyclophosphamide, Vincristine, and Doxorubicin, all drugs used for human patients. Dirk’s WBC count was high enough throughout the 8 weeks that he did not have to skip any sessions. After a week off from therapy, Dirk has started round two, four months of twice-monthly chemo. His slim figure restored, Dirk has tolerated the chemotherapy well and his family is hopeful. He has even become somewhat of a folk hero, with his own Facebook page.
Said Jenn, “All the while, Dirk and I have been receiving unconditional support on Facebook, first through my own Facebook Page, and then through the one I set up specifically to chronicle his journey http://www.facebook.com/dirk.markee. I post pictures of Dirk following each chemo session, and both Dirk and I update the status as often as we can (you can always tell when it is Dirk updating the page, because it starts or ends with “Woof”). The support Dirk and I receive through Facebook has really given us the strength to get through this. nd since my husband does not use Facebook, Dirk and I keep him in the loop about all the great words of support and encouragement that pop up on our walls.”
“Dirk’s home life has remained pretty constant. Other than the first two weeks that we were dealing first with the diagnosis and second with scheduling chemotherapy, life has been pretty normal. Our other two Weimaraners (Loren, age 7 and Vixen, age 4) act no differently toward Dirk (who will be 8 years old in September), and, while Butch and I make it a point to give him a little extra love and attention, we are being careful not to spoil him and not let him get away with bad behavior.
At Wrights Corners Animal Care Center, where Dirk receives his cancer treatment, veterinarians Dr. Beth Lewis and Dr. Charles McCausland say they see one or two cases of lymphoma or mast cell tumors a year. It is a weighty decision for a pet owner to pursue costly and extensive treatment for their animal, and the vets give it to them straight. “I tell my clients, ‘We can’t fix this,’ says McCausland. “What we do is try to give them the best quality of life for as long as they are here, to alleviate symptoms. If that buys a good 18 more months with a beloved pet then many people feel it is worth it.” He stresses that the comfort and well being of the animal should always come first.
While cancer in animals can be genetic, increasing evidence show that environmental factors such as pesticides, chemicals and second-hand smoke damage the animal’s genes and allow cancers to grow.
Some breeds seem more prone to cancers and the usual age of occurrence is between four and eight years. The American Veterinary Assoc. website reports that breeds that are commonly affected include Boxer, Scottish Terrier, Basset Hound, Airedale Terrier, Chow Chow, German Shepherd Dog, Poodle, St. Bernard, Bulldog, Beagle, Rottweiler and Golden Retriever. The Golden Retriever is especially susceptible to developing lymphoma, with a lifetime risk of 1:8.
Early diagnosis usually comes after a physical exam shows swelling in the lymph nodes and facial area and the animal may just be acting “off’ it’s usual pattern. This is one reason the annual veterinary exam is important for more than just vaccination updates. Early detection in animals, as in humans, is important.
“We treated a pet named Lucy who needed a bilateral mastectomy, removal of all the milk sacs. Lucy went through surgery and chemotherapy and lived a good life for two full human years, or 14 animal years,” said McCausland.
The cost in dollars and cents is far less than human cancer treatments, but is still considerable. Twenty-five chemo treatments and stays at the clinic for Dirk will cost around $3,000. However, most dogs tolerate chemotherapy and their quality of life can be quite good during the treatment period. Treatment for lymphoma in the dog is considered one of the more successful cancer treatments and can often be performed by a local veterinarian without the need to travel long distances to veterinary schools or specialty clinics. It helps to remember that one year can equate to almost ten percent of a dog's expected life span, therefore, the increased life expectancy with lymphoma treatment is often well worth it. The Markees are willing to do whatever it takes to keep Dirk romping with his sisters.
Bark For Life
In an ironic twist of fate, Jenn had connected with Candise Mye, Co-Chair for the Relay For Life of Grand Island, at an American Cancer Society conference in Albany a year ago. They formed an instant bond. “Through the specialty training we received at this conference, Candy and I learned skills that empowered us as leaders and enabled us to foster growth and develop potential in other Relay For Life volunteers. We learned about new programs, such as the Individual and Team Fundraising Clubs, and listen to seasoned Relayers share their accounts of successful fundraisers and anecdotes about the not so successful ones,” said Jenn.
It was at this conference that Mye and Markee first learned about “Bark For Life” a canine event that honors the caregiver qualities of canine companions as well as honoring canines battling cancer. The two kicked around the idea of bringing it to Western New York and presented it to American Cancer Society Staff Partner Stacie Waddell, aiming for a 2013 event.
Said Jenn, “When Dirk was diagnosed with Stage IV Lymphoma, the combustion happened. It started with me essentially borrowing the Bark For Life name to chronicle Dirk’s journey on Facebook. Then I contacted Bark For Life originator, Joann McKiernan, for details about Bark and how to bring it to WNY. Next thing I know, Candy and I are in Stacie Waddell’s office planning Western New York’s first ever Bark For Life for August 2012. We are still in the planning stages, and have not finalized a venue yet. Amherst Parks Department has agreed to let us hold the event at Bassett Park, and we are still waiting to hear back from the Town of Lockport on holding the event at Day Road Park. Our planned date is Sunday, August 5, 2012 with an estimated timeframe of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” said Jenn. “We are looking for volunteers to be on our committee.” Because the local Relay For Life is held on a school track, no animals are allowed and many Relayers relish the idea of an event just for their faithful companions. Companion animals bring much love and comfort to cancer patients as they battle their disease and are invaluable.
Jenn points out, “Bark For Life will be a lot like a mini-Relay. We will start with an opening ceremony, introduce Dirk as the 2012 honorary survivor, invite a local parishioner to bless the animals, and commence with a 1-mile walk. Following the walk we will have raffles, contests, games, canine demonstrations (possibly police dogs, agility dogs, etc.) and conclude with a closing ceremony. We plan to promote this event at all the local Relays, and through multiple Santa Paws events (pet pictures with Santa Claus) throughout Western New York.
Dirk is unaware of the fan club he has amassed or how his plight has inspired a new local fundraiser to help the American Cancer Society. He patiently endures his treatments and enjoys time with Jenn, Butch and his sisters. For any victim of cancer, time is precious, even when measured in dog years.
One source for information on animal cancer prevention, detection and treatment, go to the Cornell University Animal Hospital site at lwww.vet.cornell.edu/cancer. For more information on the upcoming local American Cancer Society’s Bark For Life, contact Jenn Markee at email@example.com or call Stacie Waddell at 689-6982, ext. 105.
The 10 Early Warning Signs of Cancer
( From the American Veterinary Medical Association)
· Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
· Sores that do not heal
· Weight loss
· Loss of appetite
· Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
· Offensive odor
· Difficulty eating or swallowing
· Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
· Persistent lameness or stiffness
· Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecation
VISIT DIRK'S PAGE AND GET INVOLVED!!!
This article ran as the Friday Spotlight in the Lockport Union Sun & Journal on December 23, 2011. It was "written" by Aja "Baby," the newest addition to my home and heart! If you adopt a shelter pet this season and would like to show off your new pet, I'll gladly add it here!
God's creatures looking for room at the inn this Christmas
I hope you all get what you want for Christmas, because I got my wish! I have a forever home! My name is Aja (a.k.a. Baby) and I was just adopted from Save A Pet in time for the holidays. My foster mom Lori took some of us to a Pick-a-Pet show at the new Pet Smart store in Lockport and lots of people stopped to see the cats and dogs looking for homes. For so many strays, there is no room at the inn this Christmas and that makes me sad. I was found freezing in a barn last year and was rescued before I had three kittens. My foster mom was wonderful and she let me hang out in her bedroom because I am a loner and didn’t hang with the other cats. Now I am queen of my new house and am exploring every room and lots of nooks and crannies. Since I’m already a year and a half old, I’m calm and well trained with personal habits, and I have lots of experience with humans, both good and bad. It only took a day for me to get used to the big wheels my new mom uses to roll around the house and there’s plenty of room in her bed for me. We can look out for each other now, because we both have lots of love to give.
I’m very happy but I’m also sad, wondering about my other buddies. Sidney is the friendliest black cat you’ll ever meet! He had a very bad eye infection when he was found and is all healed, but he has a curious sparkle in one eye. Lori says people are looking for perfect cats and pass him by, but he’s the perfect friend if you want to cuddle and be loved. Lots of us have sad stories and are looking for happy endings.
At the adoption show last week, Pearl the dog was wearing a wreath collar and making friends with everybody in the store. She’s pretty great, for a dog, and needs a home with plenty of fenced in yard to run off her energy. There are lots of pets looking for forever homes. We’re lucky enough to have been rescued and we have a temporary place with people who care. Still, we are looking for someone of our very own to love. We don’t ask much- just food and a place in your heart and home! Do you have room at your inn this Christmas?
The adoption fee for Save A Pet (which includes a new vet visit) is reduced if you get a pet older than one year in their “Home for the Holidays” promotion. Everyone wants those cute kittens and puppies but have our own special kind of love to offer.
You can see photos and stories of many of my fellow cats and dogs every Tuesday in the Critter Corner in this newspaper, and you can go online to see many more at www.saveapetniagara.petfinder.com.Save-A-Pet is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit animal rescue organization founded in 1977 and based in Niagara County, NY. Save-A-Pet is staffed by volunteers and is dedicated to saving the lives of homeless, abused, and neglected dogs and cats. Our foster homes provide a safe haven for all the animals that are taken in. All animals are checked by a veterinarian, vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and receive any needed medical treatment in order to maximize the success of their placement in carefully screened homes. Save A Pet has Pick A Pet shows every month, but the best place to get to know one of us is in our foster home environment. If you don’t have Internet access, call 559-3020 and one of the many volunteers will get in touch with you.
If you are not ready to take on a forever friend, there are many ways you can help all the animals in need. Be a foster home for strays or animals awaiting adoption. Do therapy visits with selected SAP dogs. Help with animals Pick A Pet shows or help with our fundraising activities. Offer to help with odd jobs as needed. This might include labeling newsletters, picking up pet supplies, or transportation for vet visits. Donate pet food, litter, or supplies such as collars, leashes, crates, shampoo, etc. Save supermarket register tapes from Dash's Markets, S&H Green Stamps, Purina weight circles, and aluminum pull tabs from cans. Monetary gifts are tax deductible. Mail to Save-A-Pet at PO Box 114, Newfane 14108 and tell them Aja and Julie sent you.
There are many other people and places who help strays and they need your help as well. The Niagara County SPCA is located at 2100 Lockport Road in Niagara Falls and you can check them out at www.niagaraspca.org. If you have a pet rescue operation and would like to spread the word, contact Julie. The Spotlight shines on all the wonderful volunteers who look out for God’s creatures.
UPDATE: Baby is fine, healthy and full of love! I was truly grateful that I had her when my sister died quite unexpectedly two months after Baby came. She was, and is, a great comfort,
Thanks to everyone who attened the recent benefits .You can keep track of Rainbow benefits and information at www.rainbowofhelp.com