Cancer is nothing when you have hope!! This site is all about living … and living well … with late-stage cancer. I hope you will journey along with me through the ups and downs of living with lung cancer.
Six years ago, on February 7th, my boy Barney was born. He came home to live with us on April 1, 2010. He has been a delight since the day he came into my life.
Such a cute little fellow!! Well, I thought so, but not everyone did. My mom came over shortly after I got him. Her first words were something like, “That’s the ugliest little dog I think I have ever seen.” You decide …
You’re a little fellow … will you be staying?
Hi Fluffy! Can we be friends?
Can I play with you, Cotton?
He may not have been the most adorable puppy, but he had so much personality! He has always made me laugh.
I fretted over a name for my puppy. I leaned toward Magic. It is a name that would have been appropriate in so many ways – he’s been magical for me. But, my husband wasn’t impressed with that name.
Is this a nice “sit?”
Finally, a friend came by and started listing a bunch of name possibilities. When she hit on “Barney,” a light came on. My mind went to Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith show … and my gangly, funny little puppy seemed like a perfect match to that name. So, he became Barney.
This dog has been a perfect match to me. He’s a happy soul. If we’re lying on the couch, he’s right there with me, happy just to be near. If we’re going for a walk, he’s ready and excited to go. And, if we walk onto the agility field, my little man is an anxious performer.
Just three weeks after I brought him home, our grandchildren came to live with us for several months. On top of my regular responsibilities, I now had a 10-month old, a 3-year-old, and a 7-year-old to raise … and a little puppy to try to train… When I wasn’t at work… Or cooking. Or cleaning…
He was as happy as could be to have Fluffy the cat, Cotton (his temperamental sister), and the three human children to play with. To this day, he loves it when the children come to visit. But, he didn’t get nearly as much attention and training as he would have or that I planned during his earliest months.
Some dogs might have suffered from that lack of training, but not my Barney. When he was finally able to begin pre-agility classes (after the children returned home), he was a super star.
He is such a stable boy. Rain, thunder and lightning don’t bother him in the least. I can think of little that bothers him, except sharing me with any animal other than his sister.
He was nearly three when I was diagnosed with cancer. We were on a roll in agility when I learned I was sick. This little boy was doing amazing things – he’s always been such a steady little partner. The only question I really had for my oncologist after learning I was sick was whether I could continue running agility with my Barney.
We had to quit agility classes because I was either too sick or too exhausted to go. But, we continued to try to go to trials as we could. And, he never let me down.
Looking back at the spreadsheet where I keep track of our trial experiences, there are only one or two times when I felt like we just didn’t connect as a team. For the most part, he gave his all.
Here are some of his latest runs. I am so proud of where he is. Where we are as a team.
Exercise is said to be good for chemo brain and for fighting cancer. Learning the courses stretches my mind. I love being around all of my friends and their dogs. It brings me great joy. I would be willing to bet that my agility addiction has helped keep me healthy.
But, while agility plays a big part in my life and the lives of my dogs, it isn’t everything! Really! It isn’t!
My heart just swells when my boy lays his head on my legs when we’re sitting on the couch or when he gets on the back of the couch and hangs his leg over so that it touches me or lays on my chest and sleeps with me there.
My favorite memory of all of my boy is the one where he came and laid on my chest for hours soon after I was diagnosed. Of course it is silly, but I felt like I could feel the tumors being pulled right out of me by his body heat. I was so, so sick, but his love and devotion comforted me more than I can say.
Happy birthday, precious boy! May we have many, many more together!
For the first time ever, Barney and I went to College Station for a two-day agility trial over the July 4th weekend. I had really looked forward to this trip because I enjoy getting out of town and staying in a hotel for a night or two and having a short drive to the agility field.
You would think if I was looking forward to the trip, I might have done a bit of planning. You would think. But, you would be incorrect.
I am not a planner by nature. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. That was never more evident than on this trip.
I had a busy week prior to leaving. I had chemo (immunotherapy) on Monday. Class on Tuesday and Wednesday. A movie on Thursday. Brunch with friends (both also fighting lung cancer) on Friday before heading out for College Station.
I packed up most of my stuff on Thursday afternoon after the movie and lunch out with Anna. I didn’t do much planning – just started throwing stuff into the bag. It doesn’t take a lot for agility – some socks, underwear, shorts, and t-shirts. No big deal. Not much thought has to go into it. Of course, since I’m taking Barney along, we do have to remember food, bowls, leashes, crate, chair, etc., but really, packing didn’t take a lot of thought.
I finished packing on Friday morning after I had my shower and got my makeup on. Loaded the crate, chair, camera, and my clothes bag into the car before going to meet my friends for brunch so that all I had to do was put together my cooler and grab Barney and my map.
Naturally, I stayed longer at brunch than I should have. I wanted to leave town at around 1 (if not earlier). I got back home from brunch at about 1. So, I was in a real rush to get the rest of my packing done and get out on the road.
Barney and I were all packed up and on the road by 1:30 or so. I called my mom so that I could catch up with what was going on with her while I drove. We talked for an hour or so when I realized that I really had not even read the directions I had printed on how to get to College Station. I had spent several minutes agonizing over the best way to get to the restaurant in Dallas where we were having brunch, but had not even read the directions to a town three hours away where I had not been in over 30 years. Hello????? Anyone home in that brain of yours, Donna????
Somewhere in my mind, I had decided erroneously that there would be an exit to Bryan/College Station off of Interstate 45 and I would just follow the road signs. Sounds plausible, right? After all, College Station is home to Texas A&M, a large, popular university where lots of kids from Dallas choose to go.
Fortunately, I had not gone so far on I45 that I had to turn around, but if I had not gotten off of the phone and looked at my directions, I might have ended up in Houston instead of College Station. I learned as I drove that not only was there no exit off of I45 for Bryan/College Station, once I left the Interstate, I was going to be on multiple two-lane highways.
That’s okay, I thought. I will just use my Google maps to direct me. Wrong. Google Maps didn’t want to find me or direct me. Uuuuggggghhhh! Fortunately, I had printed the directions, along with maps, so I was not completely without resources to guide me. (Naturally, I do not have a paper map.)
It was quite an experience, but I made it fine into College Station. I was shaking my head at myself much of the time. I am still amazed that I failed to prepare for the drive there. What was I thinking? Obviously, I was thinking it was a much easier drive than it proved to be. (Actually, the way we came back home WAS pretty easy, but the backroads way Google had me go was NOT easy!)
I was so excited to go trial at the A&M horse arena. I mean the AIR-CONDITIONED A&M horse arena. Anyone who lives in Texas knows the importance of air conditioning in July! I had heard I might even need a jacket there!!
Well, it wasn’t cold enough for a jacket, but it was a very pleasant trialing experience. Because there was a big price break if you signed up for all of the runs offered, I signed Barney up for 12 runs – six on Saturday, six on Sunday. I drove down on Friday, but originally planned to come home on Sunday after the trial. Thank God, I changed my mind and booked a room for Sunday night as well.
As it turns out, there were 965 runs booked for the weekend. That is a lot of runs. Especially since many of them were novice runs. It was very exciting to see so many dogs in novice. It means our sport and our venue will have people coming up to continue it. On the flip side, novice handlers and/or dogs tend to take a lot longer in the ring.
So, we arrived at the arena at about 7:15 AM on Saturday and we didn’t leave the arena until around 7:30 PM that evening. We had fun, but it was stressful. The arena is air-conditioned, but it is not an easy place to be with a dog that tends to be aggressive toward other dogs (which is how Barney is, unfortunately).
There were many places where people and dogs congregated that were difficult to navigate with Barney. Also, there were many novice people there who haven’t yet learned the importance of keeping their dogs close to them.
There was a lot of noise in the arena. Dogs barking, people talking and enjoying themselves, just a lot of noise. My hearing is not very good – I can hear sounds, but I can’t make out what is being said, especially when there is so much background noise. It is a bit nerve-wracking for me.
Barney had six runs on Saturday: Elite Weavers, Open Chances, Elite Regular 1 and 2, Elite Jumpers, Novice Hoopers. We earned three qualifying scores and three non-qualifying scores. We only got a few of his Saturday runs on video.
A recap of the runs (as best I remember two days later!)
Weavers: oh my! This was our worst run of the weekend. I am not usually nervous when I run, but for some reason, I was a little nervous before we started this one. I don’t know if that’s what the problem was or if Barney was just so excited to be at a trial, or what, but we had a bunch of errors on this run. Most were my fault – I did a poor job of telling him what to do. A few were his fault – like not staying in the weaves. We did have a video of this disaster!
Chances: We have been trying to earn a qualifying score (Q) in open Chances for at least a year. To no avail. Finally, FINALLY, we earned a Q on this run. Admittedly, it was not a very difficult course, but a Q is a Q is a Q! I was so excited! Fortunately, this run was also videoed!
Regular 1 and 2: Neither of these runs were videoed. Barney did a beautiful job in both runs. He earned a Q in Regular 1 and did not earn a Q in Regular 2 because his handler (me) momentarily forgot the course. I sent him over an off-course jump before remembering the flow of the course. HE did a wonderful job and did exactly what I asked him to do.
Hoopers: This is not a game we play very often. In fact, this was only our second time to run a Hoopers course. This one didn’t require any thinking. You just had to guide your dog through a bunch of hoops. The first time we played, several years ago, it was Strategic Hoopers, which requires a lot of planning and thinking. Anyway, Barney did a very nice job in this game.
Jumpers: This was the last game of the day. I was so exhausted I could just barely lift my aching feet. Barney had a perfect run, but apparently we were too slow because he did not earn a Q because we had a time fault. Others also got time faults they didn’t understand or anticipate. We don’t know if the standard course time was incorrect or if we were really that slow at the end of the day.
I was so glad to go home! We stopped and got a pizza that we took back to the room. I rejuvenated a bit after eating, so Barney and I went and walked with Linda and Louie and Diane and her two dogs, Izzy and Sampson. We sat out on a main street and watched what fireworks we could see that were being shot off at A&M. It was a great time to train Barney not to worry about lots of cars zooming by!
I was so tired on Sunday morning that I wasn’t sure I really even wanted to go back to trial. I was not in a great mood when we got there and it got worse before it got better. The incessant barking, the woman sitting next to us who did nothing but complain and talk negatively about other people, the tension at the arena … it was all more than my tired mind could process kindly.
We moved our crates away from the fussy lady and the day (and my attitude) improved appreciably. Thank goodness. I didn’t even like myself. Others sure didn’t want to be around me.
On Sunday, we ran Open Chances, Open Touch N Go, Elite Regular 1 and 2, Elite Jumpers, and Elite Tunnelers. Like on Saturday, we split the day with three qualifying runs and three non-qualifying runs.
A recap of our runs:
Chances: I had so hoped we might earn another qualifying score in open Chances on Sunday, but it was not to be. It was a much more difficult course for us as Barney still doesn’t do a great job of working away from me. Darn it!
Touch N Go: We need one more Q in Open Touch N Go to earn our title. We have been in Open Touch N Go for way too long. This was a fun and easy course (although it was more difficult than I imagined it would be, for Barney and me and for lots of other handlers, too). I could taste that Q! But, I directed Barney poorly which caused him to take a jump or hoop the wrong direction. However, much of his run was very pretty and we handled the areas that gave most dogs/handlers problems.
Regular 1 and 2: We didn’t earn a Q for Regular 1. The fact that I have no start-line stay in trials (but I do in class), caused us an issue in Regular 1. I wasn’t able to direct him as well as I needed to because of where I had to begin our run. He had a pretty nice run other than an off-course early on … and popping out of the weaves near the end.It was funny. Someone was setting up the tunnelers course in the ring behind us. Just as Barney started the weaves, the young man popped a tunnel, trying to straighten it, I think. The noise startled Barney. He stopped. Turned and looked. And popped out of the weaves. I started him over. He got to about the same spot in the weaves and the tunnel behind us was popped again! Barney stopped, looked, but this time he didn’t leave the weaves. I finally got his attention back on the course and we finished. I was not upset because we had already had some faults. Nevertheless, the judge apologized and offered us a chance to run again and the young man who was popping the tunnels came to apologize as well. I appreciated both apologies, but Barney is in elite Regular. He should be able to tune out distractions like popping tunnels.
I finally broke my curse in Regular 2. I had quit running two regular courses back to back because I tend to get confused. Regular 2 is usually an exact flipped course of Regular 1. It is easy for me to forget what course I’m running and start running the previous course. This time, we ran Regular 2 quickly and accurately.
Yea! Finally a first and Q. I kept trying to get a first place because the club hosting this trial had cute toys that I wanted Barney to win for Cotton. I chose a little husky dog that Cotton loved for about 5 minutes after I gave it to her this afternoon. She has already destuffed it. I was sad to see that.
Jumpers: Barney had a nice run in jumpers. I was hoping maybe we would come in first here, but an Australian shepherd beat us by tenths of a second.
Tunnelers: Again, we had a nice run with over 5 yards per second, but we came in second again. No more toys for Cotton 🙁
The courses this weekend were a lot of fun. Looking back, I had more fun than I felt like I was having while it was happening. The very, very long days were quite difficult for me. I think I am not healthy enough, no matter how much I want to be, for such long days. I hate that. A lot.
Thank goodness, Diane knew a better way to come home than the way I traveled to get there. Linda and Louie rode home with Barney and me. It was nice to have company. We followed Diane to I45, which was also nice! I didn’t have to worry about whether I was on the right route or not like I did when I was on my way there.
Four years ago today, my little Sheltie made his way into this world. A little less than seven weeks later, he came home to live with Robert, Cotton, and me. He is my heart and soul!
Cotton was a big white fluffy puppy – just gorgeous. Don’t shoot me, but I personally don’t think Sheltie pups are some of the cutest around. They are a breed, in my own opinion, that are much more gorgeous after they become adults. All pups are cute, but Barney and other Shelties are not beautiful as puppies. In my opinion!
My mother came over shortly after I got Barney. By that time, his little looks had grown on me and I was thinking he was cuter than I did initially. His sweet, silly personality made you love and adore him and see a different puppy.
Mom, on the other hand, rounded the corner and saw him for the first time. She immediately declared that he was the ugliest little puppy she believed she’d ever seen. Poor little Barney! She was expecting a big fluffy ball of fur like Cotton, an American Eskimo Dog, was.
I saw a picture of Barney from his puppy days on Facebook this morning. I hope I can find it to post here because the poor boy was really gangly! The angle of the camera doesn’t help! Little Man looks like he’s all head and only a little bitty body! I just want to grab that little puppy up and give him a big hug now!!! A lot of my friends have new pups this year. Seeing them hasn’t really made me want a puppy all that badly. Seeing pictures of my own Barney Boy from a few years back, though, is really giving me puppy fever!!! And lots of big, big smiles!
Barney has been through so much with me. I had only had him for three weeks when we learned that our three grandkids, aged 10 months, 3 years, and 8 years at that time, were coming to live with us. CPS had removed them from their home and, at least at first, it seemed Robert and I were going to become parents again until the kids were full grown. I only had one child when I was young … getting three all of a sudden and under such circumstances was traumatic, to say the least. Poor little Barney didn’t get nearly as much attention as he would have under different conditions.
Well, that’s not entirely true. He got attention from the kids and from me … but it was different attention than I envisioned when I got him. The good news is that he loves kids, especially the three grandsons, unequivocally. I’m sure that growing up with the kids influenced that love greatly.
But we missed some early training opportunities that I see my friends offer to their young pups. I’m not sure it really stunted him much though. He’s well-behaved and a fine little agility dog.
The kids lived with us for 5-1/2 months before the judge allowed them to go back home. So much of my time and effort was focused on taking care of them that I feel like I missed Barney’s puppyhood. I barely remember it. Those months are a daze in so many ways!
As soon as the kids got to go back home, Barney and I threw ourselves into training. Little Man was fabulous. If you asked it of him, he gave it. He still does. What a dog!
We started training every chance we got. We went out to the DAWG (Dallas Agility Working Group) field twice a week and one time a week, Barney was in pre-agility and then beginner agility classes. We both love agility and spending the time together. Cotton was along for the DAWG training. She loves agility, too. Sometimes. When it suits her!
As soon as he turned 18 months, Barney started competing in several different agility venues: USDAA, ASCA, and NADAC. We were gone nearly every weekend and, no matter the venue, the little guy turned in a stunning performance. He qualified in nearly every run he ran. We had so much fun. So.Much.Fun! We added AKC to our list of venues because there were a few weekends when we couldn’t compete in our favored venues. Addicted to agility! That was me, for sure. And Barney loved every minute of it, too!
Then, in October 2012, the bottom fell out of my world. Forget the fact that I was competing in agility every weekend and going to class, by then, four times a week. Forget that I was happier and in better shape than I can remember being (other than being slightly overweight from having quit smoking and going through menopause without the benefits of hormone treatments). Cancer didn’t care.
Barney, Cotton and I continued to go to class and trials while I underwent all sorts of tests and we waited to hear the final diagnosis. We even continued to go to class and trials after the word came that I had Stage IV lung cancer. But, once I started chemo, all bets were off.
I didn’t have the stamina to go to class at night after working all day even when I wasn’t sick, deathly sick, from the chemo treatments. If I wasn’t nauseous, I was still so exhausted that asking my legs to carry me very short distances (like from the 15 feet or so from the couch to the refrigerator) was an accomplishment. As badly as I wanted to keep playing, it was physically and mentally impossible.
Well, nearly. Ed Scharringhausen holds Run As One NADAC agility trials in this area once a month except during the hottest months of the summer. He and his other half, Cathy, are as supportive of me and the challenges I face with this disease as any two people I know have been. Despite not going to class, Barney and I have managed to go, at least for a few hours, to quite a few Run as One trials since I was diagnosed with cancer. And little Barney just keeps on keeping on! We’ve reached a point on one of the events, Chances, where the dog has to work a great distance from you, that we are not going to qualify without more training. Otherwise, though, Barney is at least as likely to earn a qualifying score as not. He gives his all each and every time we step to the line.
But, Barney is more, so much more, than just my little agility teammate. I’ve posted this picture a time or two before, but in my mind’s eye, it is how I see my little boy much of the time. I was so sick after one of my first chemo treatments. My boy was right there with me … he has never before or since been so willing to stay with me (on me) for so long as he was during the time that I was the absolute sickest … such a comforter!!!
I dearly love my Cotton Girl. One of these days, I’ll give her a post! To go on and on about Barney doesn’t diminish how much I adore Cotton, but she’s a totally different dog than Barney. Barney is my caregiver and my little shadow. My sensitive, loving little man. I am, every single solitary day, so very grateful that Mr. Barney was brought into this world on February 7, 2010 and that he came home with me a few weeks later!
Happy birthday, Little Man!!! I hope we get to share many, many, MANY more together!!!!