Monday, December 31, 2012

Rilley Rings Out 2012

It certainly has been another interesting year.  We started off in January wondering if the breakthrough seizures had returned.  Fortunately, they turned out to be more of a nuisance than something to be overly concerned about.  As the year progressed, the biggest issue we seemed to have with the little wonder is his insatiable appetite.  Countless fridge raids seemed to be his forte.  However, we celebrated some major milestones with Rilley.  In April it was his 11th Birthday (or if you want to be technical, his 9th anniversary since we adopted him).  May brought us his 18th month since surgery and just last month he surpassed two full years since our first trip to the University of Minnesota.

Whenever Christmas rolls around, we count them as "bonuses"...this year was Rilley's third bonus Christmas.    As usual, he had a grand time and was bestowed with a new Christmas collar and the usual gifts of chew bones.  Of course, as usual as well, he grabbed the first one and wanted to run outside to bury it.  When he realized that this was not to be, he ran upstairs to the master bedroom and came back without it.  That evening, as we were getting into bed for the night, we came across the missing chew bone under one of our pillows!  I suppose, true to his canine genetics, he did manage to bury his bone!

Unfortunately, it wasn't a white has been the case on many occasions here in southern Ontario.  However, just days later mother nature made up for it and Rilley couldn't be happier.  He absolutely loves the snow. Ok, maybe not the coats that Sara forces him to wear, but he does like the snow.

So as we sit here, sending off 2012 and welcoming in 2013, Rilley wishes all the best for everyone and he is looking forward to celebrating with everyone again next year!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Two years and still causing mayhem at the manor!

November 4, 2010

That was the date; the date that would change Rilley’s life.  It was exactly two years ago today that Rilley began the experimental treatment that would eventually see him cured of cancer and in his own small way contribute to the field of cancer research.  While there have been many other dogs in the trial, some with much more aggressive tumours than he and some who have lost the battle, they all deserve to be recognized for their part in this important study.

But this is his day, a day to be celebrated for it was approximately 730 days ago that Drs. Pluhar and Hunt removed the tumour from his brain.  Then Dr. Ohlfest and his team worked their magic to create the custom vaccine.  Together they all gave Rilley licence to cause further turmoil and destruction in our beloved home.  Yes, you read that correctly.  If it wasn’t for the dedicated professionals at the University of Minnesota, life would be just a quiet existence for our family.  Days would have become dreary without the excitement that a certain furry, four-legged, misfit of mischief could bring.  We would no longer have felt the love of the beagle who takes great pride in being the self-proclaimed Lord of the House.  Had we not made that 16 hour journey to Minneapolis, we would not have the pleasure of cleaning up after endless garbage raids and how could we overlook the joy of coming home to a wide open fridge, with its contents strewn about?  The resulting stains to the upstairs carpet because, surely, we could not expect him to devour his bounty on the cold tile kitchen floor.  Let us not forget the absolute thrill of being woken up at 3am because Lord Rilley has deemed it an appropriate time to be served his breakfast!  Sorry buddy, but you lose on that one…a quick bathroom break and perhaps a treat for not keeping me waiting while you patrol the back yard is all you get that early in the morning.

It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed since Rilley’s surgery.  It is equally difficult to realize that his year-long participation in Dr. Ohlfest’s clinical trial ended a full year ago.  Despite all the time that has passed, it still seems strange that we no longer need to plan return trips to the Twin Cities; it was beginning to feel like a second home.

Sure there have been some moments when we were concerned about his wellbeing, a couple of incidents involving focal and minor breakthrough seizures, but nothing that has caused us concern that the tumour had returned.  A slight adjustment to his medication seemed to take care of these issues and all is well.  Speaking of medication, he is still taking anti-seizure capsules three times a day and will remain on those for life.  A couple of things have made this a bit easier to manage.  The first being Dr. James' recommendation of a veterinary pharmacy out of Arizona that makes it a bit more affordable to buy this volume of medication.  The second, which is of the utmost importance to Rilley, is the existence of Greenie’s pill pockets.  This is where his boundless appetite works to our advantage.  If it weren’t for these wonderful little morsels pill time would be much more difficult...and they now come in a peanut butter flavour!  

Needless to say, our family is thrilled that Rilley is doing so well after all this time.  He seems just as full of energy as any other dog his age, perhaps even more so.  There doesn't appear to be any evidence to suggest that I won’t be sitting here two years from now writing another similar update.

Happy two years Rilley!!!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Long and Winding Road - Two years later

Rilley - Two years since his first seizure.

I hope Sir Paul McCartney doesn't mind me taking a title from his songbook, but today, August 10th, marks the second anniversary of Rilley's first grand mal seizure.  An event that put him onto the long and winding road that has been his battle with a brain tumour.  It has become a bit of a tradition around our house that Rilley gets a special treat on milestone days like this.  Elizabeth and I took him to the local Pet Valu where she picked out a Ladypaw for him.  (Ladypaw is apparently the canine equivalent to a Ladyfinger chocolate treat...according to the Dictionary of Elizabeth...sounds good so I'll just go with it.)

A well deserved dog treat!
While we were in the store, I picked up yet another bag of Greenie's Pill Pockets.  The girl behind the counter made small talk and I mentioned how many of these we go through and Elizabeth mentioned the significance of the day.  That, of course, led to the girl bestowing a lot of special attention to Rilley.  Not only did she get down and start petting him, commenting on how gentle he is, she also fell victim to his charms.  This then led to Rilley's favourite side effect of being so darn cute...a bag of treats appeared from behind the counter of which he was treated to more than just one.  I think he made a new friend.

Once we arrived home, Rilley eagerly awaited his treat.  Once it was in his possession, he gladly demonstrated his Olympic-esque speed and agility in devouring it before I had a chance to snap a picture.  (Sorry I had to tie in the Games of the 30th Olympiad some how!)  As you can see from the image below the treat was gone in no more than a few seconds.

Ever see the movie "Gone in 60 Seconds"?
Well, Rilley would NEVER let a treat survive that long!
The next significant milestone:  September 10th...two years to the day of diagnosis, coincidentally it was also the very day we heard from Dr. Ohlfest telling us that his clinical trial would accept out-of-country dogs.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Dog Days of Summer

We're now into the third week of the summer holidays.  The temperature around the Greater Toronto Area has been hitting all time highs and there hasn't been much by the way of rain.  No matter what Rilley is taking it all in stride.

It's been a busy time over that past month and a half.  Elizabeth's end of year dance recital, Katherine's grade 8 graduation and a little time away.  Given how hectic things have been, we hired a photographer to take some photos.  Jaime got some great shots of Katherine but of course with Rilley hovering around, he was poised to steal the show.

Photo by Jaime at
However, photos weren't the only thing Rilley scored with.  We have also found him an excellent home-away-from-home that allows us to have the occasional getaway.  Since Rilley began the anti-seizure medication almost two years ago, our lives have revolved around making sure he gets it three times a day.  Despite having great neighbours who are always willing to help out, this has made it difficult to have some time away.  A lot of kennels out there don't want to take in a pet that has had a history of seizures, however, one of the girls former teachers recently started up her own pet retreat and Joanne was willing to take him on.

"They even gave me a Kong FILLED with peanut butter!
Sweet!  I love it here!"
Rilley has stayed there twice now and he loves it!  You can tell...he gets into just as much trouble there as he does at home.  On his last visit, he had been out for a walk with another dog and the story goes that when they returned, doggie inn-keeper Joanne entered "just 45 seconds behind him".  Mysteriously a container of cooked rice had somehow found it's way off a shelf, onto the floor and magically open.  Surprisingly, the contents were nowhere to be found!  Hmmm...45 seconds, eh?  Wow, that's a record even for him.  Now in his defense, there was another dog present at the time and no it may not have been him...

But we know better don't we?

Rilley even took advantage of the poor kennel girl that works there and scammed her for a second dinner.  Yup, he feels right at home there.

In case you're wondering how to find this saint that so willingly puts up with our behaviorally-challenged beagle, follow this link:

And with that, the summer marches on!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rilley, enough with the food already!

"What? WHAT?! You can't prove a thing!"
Rilley and Exhibit "A".
Ok, enough's enough!  Rilley has really returned to his pre-tumour self.  He's getting us up every night between 3 and 4am and expects his breakfast.  During the week I will give in a lot of the time just so that I can go back to bed, however, this does need to stop.  In an effort to curb this behaviour I decided to just give him half of his breakfast around 4am with the plan that Sara give him the other half when she got up.  She was off work today and as such could sleep a bit longer and then get one of the girls off to school and the other to an appointment.  However, in this morning's rush to get out the door the other half of his breakfast was...kind of, ummm, forgotten.

At some point while the house was empty Rilley, the ever resourceful one, noticed that the jar of Kraft Peanut Butter had been left within reach.  Well, within reach once he cleared all the contents of the counter onto the floor.  By the time Sara returned back home, it was all over.  The jar of PB laying in one corner like some kind of giant Kong and the lid in another.

Then, as is the case with his usual gorging rounds, the whining started.  Obviously, our furry friend's tummy was rebelling against him.  Rilley's vet, Dr. Ewing, suggested that Sara bring him by so she could observe him.  After about an hour and a half, she sent him home saying that she would normally have given him charcoal to induce vomiting if he had come in sooner.

Later this afternoon, Rilley's rebellious stomach turned vengeful against our living room sofa.  What a mess!  It's not that easy to clean up peanut butter vomit from fabric, but luckily it was mostly on the cushions...too thick to soak into the actual, a quick rinse and into the washer they went.

As for Rilley, following Dr. Ewing's advice, we skipped his dinner and he now seems to be feeling better.  Although I worry for our sleep...not that he'll be sick again, but that tonight he will be REALLY hungry and not let up until he gets something.

No need to unscrew the lid...just use your teeth to break and pry it off!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

18 Months and Counting!

"Is there an 18-month treat?"
Yesterday, May 5th, marked Rilley's 18th month since Dr. Pluhar flawlessly performed his brain surgery and set him off on the journey of a lifetime.  Thanks to her and Dr. Ohlfest's innovative research Rilley has been able to celebrate this significant milestone and there is absolutely no sign that he has any intention of slowing down.

It still seems strange to not be planning any more trips to Minneapolis.  However, we do keep the good folks there updated on Rilley's progress and we will be sure to share this miraculous milestone with them!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Happy 11th Birthday Rilley!

Rilley, the birthday boy!
Today marks Rilley's 11th Birthday and his second "bonus" birthday since the experimental cancer treatment at the University of Minnesota saved his life.  Well, it isn't really his birthday at all.  It is actually the ninth anniversary of the day he crashed into our lives.  You see, since we adopted him from the Orangeville SPCA we've never known his true birth date.  All they could tell us at the time was that he was two years old.  So, around our house we have come to recognize April 28 as Rilley's birthday.

Our favourite local haunt!
Just about everyday of the week one of us is in there!
To celebrate, we took Rilley out for the day.  As usual, we stopped to grab a coffee at Schillaci's, our favourite local cafe and espresso bar.  Much to Rilley's delight, when I returned to the Jeep, I came with a Milkbone.  They must get enough customers that come by with Fido in tow that they keep some behind the counter.  It was a very nice surprise, thanks Michelle!

First, we took him for a visit to Ren's Pet Depot.  He's been really shedding lately, so we wanted to pick up a few supplies.  Deshedding shampoo, shedding blade and a drain filter for bath time.  It's interesting to note, as we have only taken him to pet stores much a few times before, that he seems to behave himself when around other dogs in a pet store.  I can't remember if I've mentioned it before, but whenever we take him on a walk around the neighbourhood he has his moments whenever there is another dog on the sidewalk.  Dropping into stealth mode, the fur along his spine stands on end and he does his best imitation of an intimidating canine.  Fortunately, it's not an Oscar winning performance!  As we were checking out at Ren's, the cashier tried to offer Rilley a treat...but beagle boy turned his nose up at it.  Apparently, as the girl said, the sweet potato slice wasn't exactly popular among the other dogs either!

We'd never been in Ren's before...what a better day than
Rilley's Birthday!
After Ren's it was off to Bark and Fitz in Oakville.  The girls wanted him to have some special treats from their doggie bakery.  We picked out a doggie brownie and a giant peanut butter dog bone cookie.  Of course, he got another treat from the person behind the counter!

Almost a birthday tradition.
Rilley's had treats from there before on his special day!
A doggie brownie and a rather large peanut butter cookie.
Since he was receiving all the treats, we decided to take him for a walk by the lake.  Ok, so that may not be entirely true.  We had planned on going down to Lake Ontario all along as Sara was interested in seeing what Rilley's reaction would be to the water.  Needless to say he was tentative...I wasn't expecting him to go in as it was pretty cool out, it is April after all.  We did walk right up to were the water was lapping up on shore and stood on the rocks to have a drink.  He didn't seem to like the water.  Whenever the small waves would get to close, he would jump back.  The one time it came in too fast and splashed over his paws he really didn't look all that impressed.

Rilley's first visit to Lake Ontario.
"I don't want my paws to get wet!"
However, one of the funniest moments happened on our way back to the car; we had parked it in front of Bark and Fitz.  Rilley was convinced that the store was calling his name and tried to pull Elizabeth back in.

"Hello?  Any more treats?"
Sorry, Rilley, it may be your birthday, but you can't keep going into the store in the hopes of getting another tasty treat!

On the way home, Elizabeth decided to give him the rather large peanut butter cookie.  Now, we only live that far north of Oakville, but needless to say, Rilley had polished off every last morsel before we got home.

"Gimme, gimme, gimme!  It's MY birthday!"
Tonight, the girls gave Rilley a good brushing with the new shedding blade and according to Sara his coat is now all shiny and soft!

I think the day really tuckered him out.  He is fast asleep at the foot of the bed right now.

So that's the day it's been on this, the 28th of April, 2012...Rilley's 11th birthday, or his 77th if you are counting in dog years!

Happy Birthday Rilley!

By the way, last week I added a new feature to the blog.  Just underneath the banner I've added three counters to keep track of the days since his first seizure, since his diagnosis and since his first visit to the University of Minnesota (the day of his surgery).  As you can see the numbers are quite impressive!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Oops, I did it again!

Rilley, the Easter Beagle, stuffed again!
It seems that no matter how old he gets, Rilley never learns his lesson.  Just like the Simpsons episode in which Lisa is determined to find out "Is my brother dumber than a hamster?"  Bart relentlessly tries to grab the electrified cupcake, while the hamster figures it out after just one try.  Ok, I digress...anyway, Rilley got into the fridge again this afternoon...apparently the kids forgot to lock it.  Well, he found the left over ham from yesterday's Easter dinner...and there was a lot of left over ham as it was a meal for just the four of us.

Try as they might, the girls did their best to get it from him, but when he has a tasty chunk of meat it is really the only time he becomes seriously over protective of an object.  So upon hearing him growl, one of the only sounds he makes, they backed off and let him carry it outside to bury.  Besides, I really don't think we'd be eating it now....

So, at the end of the day, a few things became apparent:
  1. He must be regretting you can see in the picture above he's looking a little sorry for himself and is preferring to lie around moving as little as possible.
  2. He is actually full...for once in his life!  He didn't even beg for his dinner tonight and we figured it would be best if we didn't give it to him.  Oddly, he doesn't seem to miss it.
  3. Later, when I was in the kitchen making my lunch for tomorrow (with cold cuts out) he came down and walked right past to go outside.  Rilley didn't even raise his nose to see what food was out.
  4. We don't think he's going outside to retrieve some buried morsels...actually, we don't even think the poor guy remembers where he hid it.
  5. "Flatulence the Wonder Dog" is back!  Need I say more?
One good thing is that this time around he doesn't seem to feel the need to dispense the contents of his stomach on our bed!  Whoo hoo...lucky us!

Perhaps one day Rilley will learn that eating everything in sight is not such a good idea.  One day....

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Long Awaited Update

Rilley...he's doing fine...and getting into trouble along the way!
Life sure has a way of keeping you busy!  I've neglected the blog and kind of left everyone who follows Rilley's story in a bit of cliff hanger.

Sara had taken Rilley for a follow up visit with Dr. James at the University of Guelph last month.  It has been determined that his breakthrough seizures are not something to be overly concerned about.  Dr. James is of the opinion that if these types of events happen once or twice every four or so months and remain as mild as they have been, then this is simply something that Rilley will have to live with.

When you stop and think about it, considering everything he has been through, he is alive and well almost a year and a half after his surgery, just over 16 months actually.  Therefore, the odd breakthrough seizure is minor in comparison.  More importantly, he is happy and our daughter's are thrilled that he is still here causing trouble!

In fact, just last week Rilley had found his way into the fridge and did a bit of a raid while we were out...the kids had apparently forgotten to lock the fridge.
Yes, the fridge has an actual chain lock on it...much to Rilley's chagrin.
It wasn't long until Rilley developed a bit of a tummy ache.  Then, judging by the increasingly frequent whining and trips outside, the tummy ache must have become more serious.  Thinking back to the upset stomach he would get during his short tenure on cancer medication, I ran out to the grocery store to get some ground pumpkin.  As I walked back in the door, it became apparent that the pumpkin was no longer required...the crisis was over...Rilley had seen fit to deposit the entire contents of his stomach onto our bed!  Thanks buddy...I guess it came on so suddenly that you couldn't even ask to be let outside!  Let it be known from this day forth...Rilley has a large stomach!

Anyway, that's how it has been around our house for the last few weeks.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Break through seizure - Update

Early in the week we got in touch with Dr. James at the University of Guelph.  She was more than happy to see Mr. Rilley before next week's appointment if need be.  However, in the end we all decided that since he was his normal self in between episodes it wouldn't necessarily be imperative to bring him in right away.  Again, we've been told to expect these sorts of things and they are always very short in duration.  Dr. James did suggest that we try to catch one of these localized seizures on video so she could see exactly what is going on.

Now, some might say that I could be tempting fate by writing this post but we have not seen any other break through seizures so far this week.  I've been keeping my iPod fully charged at all times and close at hand.  I even went so far as to not take my eyes off of him for pretty much all Monday afternoon until everyone got home.  I think I freaked the poor little guy out.

And so it goes...I just hope I will have a camera handy if or when he has another episode.

Since we've wrapped up Rilley's participation in the Brain Tumor Program at the University of Minnesota, it is reassuring to know that we've got access to a great neurologist like Dr. James so close to home.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Have the breakthrough seizures returned?

A lazy Sunday on the couch, but why does my jaw twitch?
The last few days have been interesting.  We are beginning to wonder if the breakthrough seizures may be returning.  It seems strange, though, they present as uncontrolled jaw movements, with little or no impact on his general behaviour, but they occur around the exact same time of day...usually at some point between 4 and 6pm.  We noticed this both on Friday and then just this afternoon...less than an hour ago.  It has been explained to us that seizures will always be a part of Rilley's life as his brain has now been "hard-wired" to be prone to such phenomenon.  This is exactly why he receives daily anti-seizure medication.

When we last noticed this type of seizure back in August, it had been theorized that it was a result of his twice daily dosage.  The levels of his medication may have been too low just prior to his next pill and as a result we returned him to the three-times-a-day schedule.  This seemed to correct the problem.  Now, we are left wondering if his system has become tolerant of the current levels of medication.  Perhaps we will need to increase the dose again or maybe the neurologist will want to add a secondary medication.

Right now, we have an appointment booked at the University of Guelph for February 8th and are hoping to be able to bump that up.

All in all Rilley seems happy enough.  He still makes every reasonable effort to steal your Sara found out when she tried to eat a snack this afternoon.  Rilley lept up on the sofa, retrieved the yummy muffin from her hand and retreated back to the floor to devour it.  Nothing out of the ordinary there....

I will be sure to post updates as we find out more about what is going on.