Wednesday, December 25, 2013

An Ice Storm Christmas

The last few days have certainly been interesting.  Ontario was hit hard by a severe ice storm this past Saturday night into Sunday morning.  We lost power for eight hours that night and we were one of the few extremely fortunate families.  Many others were without for days and some continue to struggle without electricity.  It has been out so long in some areas that the phone company has also lost the power required to run the lines.

We woke Sunday morning to some of the worst natural destruction our area has seen.  Not only did the ice down hydro lines, but also a vast number of trees.  Portions of our street were impassible due to trees having fallen across them.  With all the falling ice we were as careful as possible whenever we would let Rilley out,  but for some reason he thought it would be a grand idea to sit beneath our maple tree and look up!

Nonetheless, Christmas Day is here and in true Rilley-style, he brings some merriment to the day. (Whether he intends to be entertaining or not.)  You see, Elizabeth bought him a nice big bone as a gift.  Immediately upon unwrapping this magnificent piece of chewable goodness, he grabbed it in his mouth and headed for the back door.  Now, if I were a dog I would resist the innate desire to bury it and at least give it a chew or two first...but no, this is Rilley after all...

...this bone must be buried and it must be buried NOW! 

Okay then Rilley...out you go!

As you can see, the aforementioned ice storm foiled his plan.  The video above was actually his third attempt at finding a place to bury his new bone. 

Darn frozen earth!

After criss-crossing the backyard numerous times, he finally realized that this was a fruitless endeavour and brought his bone back in, settled down in the hall and began to chew away.
Nom, nom, nom.
Now, with the turkey cooking in the oven, and a lull in the activity, Rilley has decided to take a nap from all the morning's excitement.
Zzzzzzzz...dreaming of turkey.

And that's pretty much how Rilley's Christmas has been...his third "bonus" Christmas since undergoing his treatment.

So from our family to yours we wish you a
Merry Christmas
and a very Happy New Year!

Monday, December 2, 2013

National Mutt Day

Here's a little something to add to your "I did not know that" pile.

Today, December 2nd, is National Mutt Day.  Hey, I had not idea this existed either!  I only found out about it through my Facebook news feed and a post from the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center.

Interestingly, this day is celebrated not once, but twice a year...July 31st and December 2nd.  So why am I writing about this?  Well, despite Rilley's rugged good looks, he is not a pure bred beagle, he is indeed a mixed breed, or mutt, as it were.  Furthermore, not only is he a mixed breed, but he is a mixed breed we rescued from the shelter.  You see?  This day seems to be far more important for Rilley than it would at first appear.

So there you have it!  As the saying goes, you learn something new everyday.

Happy National Mutt Day Rilley!  (And if we don't have one in Canada, may be we should!)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Little Town that Rilley Loves

An interesting concept was presented to me a few weeks ago.  The website has a photo sharing campaign through which you can show how your dog represents his or her home town.  Now I'm not one to randomly promote commercial endeavours, however it was through DogVacay's online forums that Sara had found some of the dog-friendly hotels that we used on our road trips to Minneapolis.  While that was a huge benefit for us, their main purpose is to help you find a dog sitter near home.

As those who have followed the blog from the beginning know, we adopted Rilley from the SPCA in nearby Orangville when he was two years old.  Since then he has been an official Georgetown, Ontario resident for 10 full years and he couldn't be happier!  Here are a few of his favourite things about our little town.

Going for car rides.
Exploring the trails of Hungry Hollow!
Winning the ribbon for "Dog with the Longest Ears" at
the Georgetown Fair! (Okay, this photo is a bit old...2004
but he did return to claim his crown again a few years later!)
Halloween!  Rilley dressed up in 2007 as "Underdog" to
"rescue" as many treats as he could.
And just looking adorable and happy to be alive!
Photo credit: Chris So of The Toronto Star
We may live in a small town, but thanks to the second chance Rilley has been given by being a cancer survivor he still has time to experience the many other things that our beautiful little part of the province has to offer!

To give credit where credit's due, this idea was passed on to me by fellow pet-blogger Shaye Walsh of Milwaukee who wrote a similar post about her dog Sheba.  Check it out:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rilley Goes International!

Publishing a blog results in a lot of information being posted, read, picked up by search engines and distributed.  Every once in a while we will sit down and Google phrases related to the blog in an attempt to track where our posts and stories about Rilley end up.  Most hits are links back to the blog or to the newspaper and television stories on their originating websites.

Today, however, I came across a German magazine called "Partner Hund".  They describe themselves as "Das Magazin für Hundefreunde" or "The Magazine for Dog Lovers."  Image my surprise when I found, in a section of their August issue entitled "News from the dog world", a short article about Rilley.  Judging by the pictures, they must have pulled the story that was written by Isabel Teotonio of The Toronto Star (June 1, 2013 - Saturday Edition) off a newswire service and written their own, condensed version.  Their story was called "Second Life for Rilley".

The interesting thing is that, despite The Star being a major Canadian newspaper, we never imagined it would be a conduit to his story appearing as far away as Europe.  As for the article itself, it was simply a very brief synopsis detailing the diagnosis, prognosis, clinical trial at the University of Minnesota, treatment and the promising outcome (with a bit of little-girl-loves-her-furry-"brother" thrown in to tug at the heart-strings). 

It's just too bad that they didn't try to contact us directly, I could have impressed them with my (very rusty) ability to speak German.  Well...maybe not...perhaps in the end it's best it didn't come to that.  (I had to use a translation website to help me read it...some of those German words are long!)

If you can read German there is an online version of the magazine, simply follow this link:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pet Cancer Awareness Month

November is Pet Cancer Awareness month and throughout the month the Veterinary Medical Center at the University of Minnesota, where Rilley was treated, has been posting related stories on their Facebook page.  Today they wrote a post to commemorate Rilley's third anniversary as a survivor, including a brief outline of the their involvement.  I hope that their compassionate, caring and amazing team is aware of the far reaching impact of their work.

Taken from the VMC's Facebook page:

Please take the time to visit their page.  If you are a pet owner, there is a lot of useful information and tips there.  If you're not, I'm confident you will find the stories interesting.

Monday, November 4, 2013

MILESTONE: Surviving for 3 Years!

Rilley with his new stuffed friend.

Today we celebrate another major milestone in Rilley's life.  It is hard to believe that it has already been three years since Rilley's surgery in Minneapolis.  Time has certainly flown since November 4, 2010.  It may be cliché, but it really does seem like yesterday that we were packing the Jeep to hit the road for the first time.

A lot has happened since then and we have documented all the ups and downs right here on the blog.   There have been many helpful and dedicated professionals along the way and I always thought it would be fun to list them all.  So here it goes:

Mountainview Animal Hospital
Dr. Stephanie Ewing

University of Minnesota
Dr. Elizabeth Pluhar
John Ohlfest, Ph.D
Dr. Matthew Hunt
Brian Andersen, Ph.D
Jessica Bedi

University of Guelph
Dr. Fiona James

Mississauga Oakville Veterinary Emergency Hospital
Dr. Meredith Gauthier
Dr. Carolina Duque

It is thanks to all those people, and the legions of staff that work with them, that Rilley has been able to make it to this point.  As I had said in a post near the beginning of this journey, Rilley really does have more doctors than most people!

Another pair of characters that have seen him through his surgery and beyond are his favourite stuffed animals, Winnie the Pooh and Bunny.  They've had put up with a lot.  Winnie not only came along for the ride on our first trip to Minnesota but he also comforted Rilley during his stay in ICU.  Bunny came along on subsequent trips and through it all they have been his favourite toys.  They have seen better days though.  Sara has had to perform many a reconstructive surgery on both of them whenever Rilley decided to go Tony Soprano on them and take out his frustrations.

As a way of commemorating today, Sara picked up a new stuffed buddy for him, complete with a scarf imprinted with the year.  Hopefully he gets welcomed into the fold of Rilley's little clan.

Here's to celebrating many more anniversaries Rilley!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

And now for something completely different....

I thought it would be nice to share something entirely unrelated to Rilley or brain tumours.  This is a video that I came across today and it made me smile.  It was also right up my alley as it combines dogs, especially the drooling ones, and a favourite technology of mine...high speed video cameras.  It was created by photographer Carli Davidson in collaboration with a production company called Variable to promote her new portrait book "Shake", a collection of stills of dogs doing just that...shaking their heads.

Check it will make you smile too.

SHAKE from Variable on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rilley Rocked the Neurological Exam!

The Small Animal Clinic at the University of Guelph
Well, it's that time of year again!  Rilley had his annual neurological check up today with his neurologist Dr. Fiona James at the University of Guelph's Small Animal Clinic.

Recently there have been a couple things that had us concerned, so today's follow up appointment came about at the right time.  Two weeks ago, we had taken Rilley for a walk, one that was a little bit longer than usual.  When we returned home his hind legs were shaking.  Then the next evening Rilley experienced a breakthrough seizure.  It was his third in almost as many years and presented itself in the exact same manner; rapid, uncontrolled jaw movement that lasts for about 10 to 15 seconds.  It could also be described as teeth chatter, although his teeth never contact each other.

Rilley waiting to be called in to see the neurologist.
When we arrived, Dr. James was just finishing up a procedure with another patient, so we met with one of her residents who had briefed herself on Rilley's history beforehand and knew the major points of his case.  She took him off to meet up with Dr. James so they could perform the physical and neurological exams.

We are pleased to report that Rilley passed the physical and neurological exams with flying colours and he had even lost some weight!

To follow up on our concerns, Dr. James' advice was, as we had been told by Dr. Pluhar in Minnesota, that seizures are not an uncommon occurrence in dogs who have had tumours removed and since his have been so minor and infrequent, we should not be overly concerned.  As for his back, beagles are apparently prone to some disc compression in their lower backs as they age and that may contribute to the shaking.  Additionally, the shaking appears to be positional; meaning that it only occurs when he sits or stands in a certain way...if we notice him shaking, a slight move is all it takes to make it stop, which a lot of times Rilley will do on his own anyway.

So all in all, the recent concerns were not an indication of any decline in his health and Dr. James was pleased to see that Rilley is continuing to thrive.

Way to go Rilley, you really did rock the neuro-exam!

(You'd think that with all the time he's spent at universities that he'd be close to getting his own Ph.D.)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Happy 1K Day Rilley!

Wow, 1000 days and still going strong!
Today marks yet another significant milestone in Rilley's life.  It has now been exactly 1000 days since his surgery to remove a lethal brain tumour.  That is certainly much longer than the six weeks he had been given at the time of diagnosis.

We couldn't let this momentous occasion pass without giving it the recognition it deserves; this truly is a landmark day.  If a simple beagle from small town Ontario has won the fight against cancer thanks to the work being done at the University of Minnesota, the future looks very bright for the human beneficiaries of the research he took part in.

A screen capture of the "surgery" counter from earlier today.
We can honestly say that, aside from thrice daily medication, life has returned to normal...almost as if the tumour never existed.

Happy 1000th day Rilley!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Inside Story: The Life of Rilley

Now that Rilley is on his way to three years since he underwent treatment for the meningioma, there is a renewed interest in his story.  In June the Toronto Star published an article about him in their spread on veterinary medicine.  I know many people saw that story, but it also drew the attention of Avery Haines from CityNews. She contacted us and asked if we would share our story for her series "Inside Story".  This story has always been so much bigger than Rilley himself, so any time we can draw attention to the advanced research being done at the University of Minnesota, we are always up for it.

Avery's story aired tonight (three times in total) and Sara and I are very happy with the way it turned out.  It was a great balance of the seriousness of the subject matter along with the lighter side of life with Rilley...fridge lock, anyone?  The whole family took part.  The girls were in it and we even managed to get Sara on camera as well.   I know it's hard to tell a complex story like Rilley's in the timespan of a news story, but Avery and her team did it very well.

After it aired, Sara noticed that the @CityAvery Twitter feed had some chatter on it about the story.  All the feedback seemed to be positive.

Have a look for yourself, just follow this link:

Monday, July 15, 2013

Rilley the Water Dog

In all of his 12 years, there's one thing that Rilley has never done.  Unlike most dogs, he has never before gone swimming.  Well, this past Saturday that all changed.  With the current stretch of hot weather we thought the timing could not have been better.  So we took him down into the ravine near our house where a creek runs through.

Nice cool water on a hot day.

We found a great spot where we could just walk in with him, but with deeper areas so that he could try to swim.  He seemed to welcome the cool water running across his paws, but was a bit tentative with the deeper water.  So, to help out, I picked him up and lowered him into an area where he could swim without touching bottom.  When I let go, he kept his head above water and swam back to shallower water.

"I can do it!  I can swim!"

Given that this was his very first time in the water, he didn't seem to stress about it at all.  He swam as if it was the most natural thing for him to do.  However, while he really seemed to like it, a few times in and out and he had enough and trotted off to shore.

If the dog days of summer continue to be hot, Rilley now has a choice to chill in the air conditioned climate of the house, or to go for a short walk and cool off in the the creek!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Rilley...a real "Toronto Star"!

Photo: Chris So, The Toronto Star
Back in January, the Toronto Star ran an article detailing the Slaight family's generous donation of $50 million to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.  In it Dr. Benjamin Neel, the centre's director of research had said:

"Targeted treatment and immune therapy — a way to reactivate the immune system against tumours — could lead to cures"

Immune therapy is exactly how Rilley was treated for his brain tumour, and it ultimately saved his life.  So I reached out to writer Isabel Teotonio through an email saying that immune therapy can indeed work; after all we have proof in a four-legged, furry friend.  Ever since we participated in the trial at the University of Minnesota, where Rilley benefited from the hard work and dedication of the late Dr. John Ohlfest, Dr. Liz Pluhar and the rest of their team, we've wanted to bring them as much exposure as possible.  It's just our little way of trying to give back for all that we have received from them...our family could never thank them enough.

A few weeks ago, Isabel paid us a visit to interview Sara and I for the article and photographer Chris So came to get some photos.  We sat down and discussed Rilley's entire journey...interestingly it reminded us of just how far he's come.
Rilley seems to have taken a real liking to Toronto Star photographer Chris So.
This weekend the June 1st edition of the Saturday Star is running a series of articles about veterinary medicine including one chronicling Rilley's unique story.  Isabel did a fantastic job writing it, so look for the article entitled "Veterinarian: Rilley the Miracle Dog" in the Life section of the paper or click on the image below to be taken to the online edition.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Emperor's New Collar (Rilley's 12th Birthday)

Happy 12th Birthday Rilley!

Rilley and all his Birthday spoils!
"Keep your paws off!  They're mine!", he says.

Today marks Rilley's 12th Birthday; another monumental occasion given the incredible second chance he has been given. Well, as I've said before it's really the anniversary date of the day we brought him home from the doggie adoption agency.  That was 10 years ago when he was just two years old.  As usual, we took him out to one of the many pet stores and let him pick out something special, and as tradition dictates around our house, it would be a new collar.  He has received new collars for such things as birthdays, Christmas, trips that we've been on including one from the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games and most befitting, one from the University of Minnesota.

A selection of collar's past, including from the University of Minnesota and the
2010 Olympic Winter Games.

The store we chose this time was Petsmart on Argentia Road in Mississauga.  While we were shopping, the staff checked if there was anything we needed help in finding.  Sara had wanted to find him a collar that said something like "Happy Birthday" on it...while I knew the chances of finding that were slim to none...Sara insisted that we ask, after all we did get him a Christmas collar!  Of course, there were no birthday-specific collars to be found, but this tipped off the staff to his special day.  A little later, while I was still shopping, the staff member who we had spoken with came up with two toys and asked Rilley to pick one.  When he seemed to settle on the one in the picture above, she removed the tags, said "Happy Birthday" and gave it to him.  That was very nice and when I thanked her, she said it wasn't everyday that a pet comes in on their actual birthday!

Unfortunately, I was not paying enough attention to get the lady's name, I really would have liked to thank her properly here on the blog, or even have mentioned to their corporate office that they have some wonderful employees.

When we checked out, the cashier saw the toy and asked "Is this the Birthday Boy?"  It sure was.  He really is a very lucky dog.  Oh, and yes, he did get a new collar!

Happy Birthday Rilley!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cancer research has lost a true pioneer

Dr. John Robert Ohlfest
1977 - 2013
It is with great sadness that Sara and I pass along the news that Dr. John Ohlfest, the driving force behind the experimental treatment that saved Rilley's life, passed away on January 21st of melanoma; he was 35. It is through John's unwavering dedication and ground breaking research that advances in the treatment of brain tumours have been possible.

Having had the opportunity to communicate with John on several occasions and even to sit and have a discussion over lunch it became apparent that John was not only a brilliant mind, but a genuinely kind and down to earth person.  Despite his busy schedule, he took the time give us a tour of his lab and even to answer our daughters questions.  One of the best impressions we walked away with that day was his love for his family.  When he showed us his office, he just beamed with pride when he spoke of his family.

Needless to say, we were shocked to learn of his passing.  It is incredibly ironic that a man who dedicated his life to finding a cure for brain cancer lost his own battle with another form of this devastating disease.  We can only hope that his life's work continues on as the treatments he developed have already begun to help people and we would really like to see it prove to be a cure.  That would truly be a fitting tribute.

For more insight into the incredible life of Dr. Ohlfest, the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota issued the following press release which also contains a link to his obituary:

Our thoughts are with his family.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Front Page Rilley (Again)!

Rilley's fifteen minutes of fame has been extended a bit more.  Lisa Tallyn, the reporter who wrote Rilley's first newspaper article just over two years ago, has written a follow up article.  The story appeared on the front page of today's edition of the The Independent & Free Press here in Halton Hills.  Back in November, when I had written his two year anniversary blog post, I had sent Lisa an email to let her know that Rilley had been doing well.  That's when she had the idea to write a follow up and of course the girls couldn't pass up the opportunity to pose with their favourite, four legged friend.

Katherine and Elizabeth with their prized pooch!
Photo credit: Ted Brown, The Independent & Free Press

To read the article, it can be found by following this link:

An interesting thing just happened as I was about to publish this post.  A very nice girl called after having seen today's article.  She wanted to know if we would like to adopt a young beagle who needs a home.  Her friend had taken it in when its owner passed away.  To be honest, I'm actually sitting her hoping that I didn't come off as a jerk when I politely declined.  I told her that Rilley really would not do well with another dog in the house...he is a very solitary dog who doesn't always enjoy the company of other dogs.  He's not mean, quite the contrary, he is very lovable.  However, he seems to become depressed whenever there is another dog around and, while he is doing remarkable well, after everything he's been through we wouldn't feel right disrupting his routine with another dog right now.  So, caller, if you read this, we are truly very sorry that we could not help you and your friend out.