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Tag: death

Who knows what’s best for Jack?

jack

Dog blogger and broadcaster Steve Friess says he’s not going to spend $5,000 to put his dog though chemotherapy that could extend his life a year or more — and he’s going to try not to feel bad about it.

Even when he says his final goodbye to Jack in what could be less than a month.

In late October, Friess noticed the dog he’d adopted nine years ago was getting lethargic, and that his weight had dropped from his usual 11 pounds to around eight.

A vet diagnosed that Jack had an aggressive form  of lymphoma that was spreading quickly through his body.

Friess did some research, checking with friends, and vets, and friends who were vets: One of the latter urged him to “do the full chemo protocol ASAP!” It could send Jack into remission for nine months, or 12 months, or even longer.

Friess and his partner researched, debated and decided against chemotherapy — not because it would be all that rough on the dog physically (they handle it much better than we do). The main reason, he admits, is the money, which, he also admits, they just doesn’t have.

There will likely be those who second guess Freiss, or maybe try to lay a guilt trip on him: Take out a loan, hit up your friends, get a second (or third) job, launch an online fundraising campaign, let me be the first to donate.

We’ve become a nation of such overflowing compassion for dogs, with such promising new medical technologies, and such handy online fundraising tools at our beck and call, that it’s easy to lose sight that decisions about life and death — both ours and our dogs — are still our own, and that throwing in the towel, for financial reasons, or others, isn’t always a shameful choice.

We suspect Friess will receive some support for his decision, but will hear from many more questioning it. His decision to write about it, as he did in a post for Time.com, is brave, but also an open invitation to second-guessers. In any case, the decision on what’s best for Jack should be (and has been) made by the person who knows him best, and deserves to be respected

Friess, a freelance writer and co-host of The Petcast, said neither his advisers nor his vet seemed to be trying to make him feel guilty about his choice. But, as is the way with guilt trips, we often don’t need a tour guide.  Feelings of shame can start as soon as we ask our vet the question Friess did:

“How much will it cost?”

For Friess, the estimate was a minimum of $5,000 — more than he and his partner had.

“(It) means we have about 30 days. The end will probably come in time for holidays … ”We’ve received a lot of advice, both solicited and unwelcome, through social media. Nobody comes right out to say it, but the disappointment some express at our decision shows that they question our love for Jack. In an era when people spend big on animal clothes, artisanal foods and medical intervention, and when medical science makes it possible to spend $5,000 so Jack dies slightly later than sooner, there is pressure to go as far as we can.”

There’s one more twist. Friess and his partner are trying to adopt a human baby, and they’re working on saving the $15,000 fee for that.

“If that $5,000 could cure the cancer and restore Jack’s full life expectancy, maybe we’d do it,” he wrote. “Maybe. It certainly would be a tougher choice. But to buy a year during which we’d be waiting for his lymph nodes to resume their swell? We could endure the end stages either now or later.”

(Photo of Jack by Steve Friess)

A drug to make your dog live longer?

antiaging

Two University of Washington scientists think it might be possible to slow the aging process in canines and are launching a pilot study with 30 dogs to see if the drug rapamycin significantly extends their lifespans.

The researchers, using $200,000 in seed money from the University of Washington, plan to use pets, not laboratory animals, for the initial study, and recruit volunteer dogs — or at least dogs whose owners volunteer them — for larger scale studies in the future.

Daniel Promislow, an evolutionary geneticist, and Matthew Kaeberlein, a molecular biologist, say the study is aimed at determining whether rapamycin could lead to longer lives for dogs — as studies have shown is the case when it’s used on yeast, fruit flies, worms and mice.

“We’re not talking about doubling the healthy life spans of pets,” said Kaeberlein. “But at a minimum I would predict that you would get a 10 to 15 percent increase in average life span, and I think bigger effects are possible.”

In the pilot study, 30 large, middle-aged dogs will be involved — half receiving low doses of rapamycin, half receiving placebos.

The researchers say that subsequent studies will seek to enroll pet dogs from across the country.

Kaeberlein and Promislow hosted a meeting in Seattle last week where experts from across the country discussed the drug rapamycin and its possible effects on the health and longevity of dogs, the Seattle Times reported.

Currently used along with other medications to prevent rejection in organ-transplant patients, rapamycin has been called a promising anti-aging drug — though there have been no studies involving humans.

But almost 50 laboratory studies have shown that the compound can delay the onset of some diseases and degenerative processes and restore vigor to elderly animals, extending life spans by 9 to 40 percent.

Rapamycin functions, in part, by inactivating a protein that promotes cell growth. As a result, cells grow more slowly, which retards the spread of cancer.

Promislow, who has two elderly dogs of his own, noted that even if the drug doesn’t increase the life span of dogs, it could serve to keep them healthy longer. “We’re trying to understand why some dogs age better than others, and help all dogs age in a better way,” he said.

The drug has been shown to have serious side effects, including poor wound healing and an increased risk of diabetes, when used at the high doses required for organ transplant patients.

But the low doses used in anti-aging research with mice and other lab animals cause few side effects.

There have been no large-scale human trials. Studying how the drug affects dogs — who suffer many of the same old-age ailments as their masters — makes it possible to explore the possible benefits of rapamycin both more quickly and at a lesser cost.

If it does turn out to be a sort of  fountain of youth — for dogs, humans, or both — the potential profits would be enormous.

“I think it’s worth a go, not just from what it can teach us about humans, but for the sake of the animals themselves,” said University of Alabama Biology Department Chairman Steven Austad, an expert in aging research who is not involved in the project. “It may not work in dogs, but if it did, boy, it’s going to be huge.”

According to the Seattle Times article, drug companies aren’t very interested in rapamycin because it’s no longer under patent.

But the researchers are hoping dog lovers, dog-food companies and some foundations might be willing to contribute to further research.

They’ve set up a website, dogagingproject.com,where people can donate and sign their dogs up to take part in the research.

“Given how I feel about my pets, I see this as a unique project where there’s a real potential for citizen science,” Kaeberlein said. “I think it would be great if pet owners who are really interested in improving the health of their animals would help fund this work.”

(Photos: UW scientists Matt Kaeberlein, with his dog Dobby, and Dan Promislow, with his dog Frisbee; by Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

Is the end near for Isis (the dog)?

isis1

The British press, which is very good at speculating, is suggesting Isis, the Labrador retriever in Downton Abbey, might soon be departing.

And all because of her name.

Lord Grantham’s dog, Isis — named after the Egyptian princess — could be taken off the show to avoid any further association to the jihadist group ISIS.

Downton Abbey’s fifth season is currently airing in the U.K., and in the most recent episode Lord and Lady Grantham made reference to the dog appearing “terribly listless.”

“I wonder if she’s picked up a germ” says Lady Mary at one point. “Maybe she’s eaten a squirrel.”

isisdogIsis was still alive at the end of the episode.

According to The Independent, an ITV rep said in a statement that the dog’s name is an “unfortunate coincidence.” The terrorist group was not yet using that name when writers began working on season five, the representative said.

But the rep wouldn’t comment on whether Isis may be leaving the cast.

While the show is in its fifth season, it has covered a 12-year time span. And given the dog was an adult when she first appeared, her death — the death of her character, we mean — wouldn’t be that out of the blue.

It wouldn’t be the first television program to make changes since the terrorist group came on the radar.

The FX series “Archer” got rid of its spy agency ISIS, “Doctor Who” edited a beheading scene and Fox apologized for a poorly timed “Sleepy Hollow” ad campaign.

(Photo: ITV)

Hector, the former Vick dog, passes away

hectorslastwalk

Hector, a pit bull rescued from Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring, has died of cancer at his Minnesota home.

One of 51 dogs rescued from Bad Newz Kennels in 2007, Hector was rehabilitated at Bad Rap and, about a year later, adopted by new owners, Roo and Clara Yori in Rochester.

During the six years he spent with them he became a therapy dog, visiting local nursing homes and hospitals.

About a month ago, Hector was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.

In recent weeks, his owners twice scheduled appointments to have Hector put down, but both times they backed out.

This week, as his suffering intensified, they went through with it, according to Hector’s Facebook page.

The Yori’s placed this post on that page Tuesday, written from Hector’s point of view:

“Hello everyone. Unfortunately my time has come, and if you’re reading this, that means that I have already passed. My last day was as good as one could ask for. The sun was shining, the frogs were out for me to chase at the pond, and I had Roo and Clara to carry me off the trail when my legs just couldn’t go any further. I called shotgun to assume my co-pilot position on the way to the vet, where I passed away surrounded by people who love me.

I think my past life caught up with me and caused my time to come a little early. However, I can proudly say that I gave it everything I had all the way until the end. To my Vick Dog family, and all the other dogs rescued from similar cruelty situations, keep carrying the torch! There are a lot of dogs out there that still need help, so keep proving they deserve their chance through our success…

“Please remember that dogs don’t really have a choice on where they end up, and some really good dogs end up in a bad spot through no fault of their own. Before you pass judgement, give them a chance to show who they are regardless of appearance or past life. You never know how it will turn out…”

hectorlake

(Photos: Hector on his final hike, from his Facebook page)

The homeless man and his white dog

elwoodandgladys

For more than a decade, they were a familiar sight around downtown Salisbury, Maryland — the homeless man and his silky white dog.

You could often find them stationed outside Benedict the Florist, or located in what was an even shrewder spot to panhandle — behind the Dunkin Donuts, where cars lined up at the drive-through.

Elwood, the homeless man, and Gladys, his dog, weren’t shooed away too often in Salisbury. That, likely, was in part because of Elwood’s friendly demeanor, maybe in larger part because of his highly sociable dog, who he found as a pup in a box by a Dumpster, or in a bag in the middle of Highway 13, depending on who’s telling the story

In any event, the troubled man and the Wheaton mix became partners in homelessness, and for more than a decade survived off the kindness of friends and strangers in Salisbury.

elwoodgladys2Then, about a year and a half ago, they disappeared.

No one has seen Elwood since last May, though some people still think they see his dog at various locations around town.

Edna Walls had that feeling when she saw a silky white, mid-sized dog at a groomers recently, asked about it and learned it was — sure enough — Gladys.

Elwood Towers died last May of cancer, the groomer explained to her, and since then his dog has been living with the owner of the flower shop outside of which Elwood and Gladys once panhandled. She recounted the encounter in a reader-submitted column published on Delmarva Now.

The Lucky Dog Pet Salon never charged Towers for grooming Gladys, Walls reported, just like some local veterinarians cut him a break when Gladys needed shots or medical treatment.

An obituary on Legacy.com makes note of the kindness the two received. Submitted by his “adoptive family,” it thanks “the business and professional community and the thousands of people that took the time to help him, say a kind word, or give Gladys a pet. Those things are what made his life meaningful.”

The obituary continues, “He leaves behind his dearest and closest companion, Gladys. The ‘homeless man and his white dog’ were well recognized from their travels throughout the Salisbury area in the last 15 years. Elwood loved the outdoors and his ‘WORK;’ the proceeds of which were often shared with others in need.”

George Benedict, who took in Gladys after Elwood’s death, agrees that Elwood was known for being poor, but also for being a giving sort. Once, he got kicked out of an apartment for refusing to get rid of a stray bird he was nursing back to health.

“He was a generous man,” Benedict told ohmidog! ”If he took in $100, he’d give half of it away or buy groceries for friends in need.”

Elwood, before he died, took steps to make sure Gladys would be cared for. He asked George Benedict to take ownership of Gladys.

In years of writing about homeless people, and homeless dogs, and homeless people with homeless dogs, it’s something I’ve noticed. A homeless person may not know where their next meal is coming from, but they know where their dog’s is. A homeless person may have no roof over his head, and no plan for tomorrow, but likely they’ve made contingency plans for what will happen to their dog when they’re gone.

gladysBenedict, who had always been fond of Gladys — who’d never suggested the pair move on when they lingered outside his shop — agreed. He’s retired now, and the floral shop — a local institution for 130 years — closed in 2011. Benedict still works with homeless people, though, through an organization called Hope, Inc.

He knew Elwood for almost 15 years, and remembers when Elwood found Gladys — in a box by a Dumpster, he says — and decided to keep the pup. Some people told Elwood that was a mistake, Benedict recalls, pointing out to Elwood that he could barely take care of himself.

Elwood had spent much of his life in prison, including his teens. He looked down on drug use, and while he enjoyed a beer or two, he wasn’t a heavy drinker, Benedict said.

Still, after taking in Gladys, Elwood never had another drink, Benedict said. “She was pretty much his whole life.”

For a while, Benedict said, Elwood lived in an unheated garage, paying $300 a month for it. About the time city inspectors asked him to leave, Gladys had a litter of pups. Elwood gave them away, including one to Benedict.

Benedict said that dog died at age 6, from lymphoma.

“I never imagined I would actually wind up with Gladys,” Benedict said.

In his final years, Elwood was fighting cancer, too.  His lower jaw had to rebuilt after one surgery. He called off the fight in 2012, deciding not to seek further treatment.

In Elwood’s final months, Benedict spent a lot of time with him. He died May 17, 2013, at age 75 at Coastal Hospice at the Lake.

Benedict took Gladys to the groomer just before Elwood’s funeral, and she attended the service, along with about 35 humans.

“They were sort of unique in Salisbury,” Benedict said. “I guess it was the combination of him and Gladys. People gave him a lot more tolerance than they might some other folks.”

Gladys is 14 now.

“She’s an amazing dog,” Benedict says. She just instinctively likes to be with people … My wife and I are convinced she has some sort of aura about her. She goes with me wherever I go, and all the stores let her in. Wherever I go, people get out of their car and say ‘what kind of dog is that?’ I tell them she’s a Wheaton mix.

“Some of them say ‘I used to give food to a man who had a dog like that.’”

While Elwood has been dead for a year and a half, donations can still be made in his memory to the organization specified in his obituary: The Humane Society of Wicomico County, 5130 Citation Drive, Salisbury, MD 21804.

World’s tallest dog dies of “old age” — at 5

zeus

Zeus, the world’s tallest dog, is dead.

The Great Dane passed away earlier this month — two months shy of his sixth birthday — from “symptoms of old age,” according to his owner.

Great Danes have shorter life spans than most dogs — most likely the result of breeders intent on making the breed larger yet, and the strain that size puts on their organs — which only makes the death of Zeus doubly sad.

“We’ll really miss him,” said Zeus’ owner, Kevin Doorlag, of Otsego, Michigan.

Doorlag and his wife, Denise say Zeus was a “wonderful dog” — famous both for Guinness World Record-setting size, and for his work as a therapy dog in their hometown.

He stood 44 inches at the shoulder — 7 feet, 4 inches on his hind legs. He claimed the Guinness World Record in 2012, and still held the title in the 2013 and 2014 editions.

The previous World’s Tallest Dog was Giant George, a Tuscon, Arizona, Great Dane. He died at age 7.

Kevin Doorlag said one of the things he will miss most is seeing the joy Zeus brought to others.

The death of Zeus is, first and foremost, a time to remember and celebrate Zeus.

But if it makes us question why, in the name of seeking extremes, we accept purebred breeding practices that lead to ill health and short lives, that’s fine, too. They’re in need of questioning.

What there’s less need for — whether it’s in pursuit of ribbons, world records, or sales — is making fluffy dogs fluffier, long and skinny dogs longer and skinnier, short snouted dogs even more shortly snouted.

We don’t need (sorry, Marmaduke) cartoonish dogs, or dogs that, through breeding them with close relatives, become exaggerated caricatures of their breed.

Healthy dogs will do just fine.

(Photo: Kalamazoo Gazette)

The last living 9/11 search and rescue dog?

TrakratGroundZero

A golden retriever named Bretagne is all over the Internet today — today being 9/11 — looking much grayer around the muzzle than she did in 2001 and being described as the only search and rescue dog at the World Trade Center who is still living.

Whether that’s accurate depends on how you define “living.”

Not to pick nits, but there’s another dog, a German shepherd named Trakr — said by some to have found the last human survivor of the World Trade Center attack — who lives on … in a way.

Trakr was cloned in 2009, after his owner, a police officer turned actor, won an essay contest seeking the world’s most “cloneworthy” dog.

Five little clones of Trakr were born, after Trakr’s death at age 16 in 2009, and arrived in the U.S. from the Korean laboratory in which the procedure took place.

It’s a long story, one you can read about in the book, “DOG, INC.,” which recounts how dog cloning became a commercial enterprise.

Here’s the short version: Trakr was the partner of  James Symington, a Halifax, Nova Scotia,  police officer. When Trakr was retired, Symington claimed him as his own. On Sept. 11, 2001, after seeing news reports, Symington, without authorization from his department, took Trakr to the World Trade Center.

There, as Symington recounts it, Trakr discovered Genelle Guzman buried in the rubble — the last survivor found.

Others dispute his account.

Symington later moved to California to pursue a career in acting, taking Trakr with him. When an American company called BioArts announced it was holding a “Golden Clone Giveaway,” Symington submitted an essay, and won.

BioArts footed the bill (about $150,000) and sent samples of Trakr’s DNA to South Korean veterinarian Hwang Woo-Suk, who was on the team at Seoul National University that produced the world’s first canine clone, Snuppy. He’d since been fired and opened his own laboratory, Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.

Trakr’s DNA was inserted into five “surrogate” egg cells, each of which was zapped with electricity and implanted into a different female dog.

SONY DSC

In June 2009 five clone puppies were born and, a few months later, delivered to Symington. He named them Trustt, Solace, Valor, Prodigy, and Deja Vu, and said he planned to train them all as search as rescue dogs who would carry on Trakr’s legacy.

They seem to have fallen out of the limelight since then, and their Facebook page hasn’t been updated for a couple of years.

Earlier this year, the man who pushed dog cloning and sponsored the “Golden Clone Giveaway,” in an apparent turnaround, said cloning dogs — a service still offered in South Korea — was not a viable, profitable, or humane pursuit, noting that it took up to 80 dogs to clone just one.

Lou Hawthorne headed BioArts, and spearheaded the earliest (unsuccessful) efforts to clone dog at Texas A&M University. That research was funded by University of Phoenix founder John Sperling, who died last month.

While some of the main characters involved in dog cloning seem to be fading from public view, from Trakr’s clones to Sperling, dog cloning is not — Sooam Biotech is still carrying out clonings for customers who want duplicates of their dead or dying pets, at a price that has dropped to about $100,000.

But back to the dog who is in the news — Bretagne. She returned this week to the site of the former World Trade Center complex with her longtime handler and owner, where they were interviewed by Tom Brokaw for NBC’s Today Show.

Bretagne (pronounced “Brittany”) is one of eight finalists for the American Humane Association’s annual Hero Dog Awards, and later this month she’ll travel with her owner to Beverly Hills for the awards ceremony.

My hunch, and hope, is that Bretagne is not destined to be cloned, and that her owner realizes what many customers of dog cloning have not — every dog, and every person, is one of a kind. And one of a kind means one of a kind. That special something inside your dog can’t be re-created in a laboratory.


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