Charlie Brown is officially a three-time cancer survivor at age 14 ½. He’s had spindle cell carcinomas, all of which were slow-growing and easily enough removed with good margins. Spindle cell carcinomas originate in the spindle cells in the muscle layer; his were relatively superficial. You might say that he’s a lucky dog. We can also credit good breeding (his parents were both long-lived, and at least one grandparent made it to 17), a healthy environment, plenty of exercise, and good quality food.
Because we have a survivor in the family, I eagerly accepted an invitation to review the second edition of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. The book is already a best-seller on Amazon in both softcover and Kindle editions, and as part of the Dog Cancer Kit.
Veterinarian Dr. Damian Dressler and veterinary oncologist Dr. Susan Ettinger cram an astonishing amount of information, expertise, explanations, and even coping mechanisms into just shy of 500 pages. Don’t let the sheer size of the volume discourage you, though. The book has been written and formatted to resemble the popular “Dummies” books, and the information works much the same way. There is a lot of information to absorb, sure, but you’ll get it all in plain English.
If I had to distill the book’s instructions into two sentences, I might choose these: “First, do whatever you can to get a grip on yourself. Then, do everything within your power to give your dog the best life possible — and there’s a lot you can do.”
It’s not bad advice. If you’ve received a diagnosis from your vet with the word “cancer” in it, the natural reaction is to feel as though you’ve been punched in the stomach, and that your best friend is about to die in front of you. Dr. Dressler reminds you that your dog is still there with you, and in order to be the best possible health advocate and cancer fighter for your dog, you need to get past the emotions of that horrific word “cancer” and get ready to give the disease both barrels (in Dressler’s words, “Full Spectrum Care.”). He also gives advice on how to help your dog to be in the best frame of mind for healing.
Chapters of the book describe both traditional and alternative approaches in detail, including what to expect both before and after the therapy. There are herbs and supplements, a cancer-fighting diet formulated in such a manner as to reduce the environmental carcinogens as much as possible, simple (but potentially helpful) advice, such as not feeding your dog from a plastic dish (I’ve been a fan of stainless steel for many years), managing the side effects of treatment, and even links to some financial resources and ideas. The appendices are loaded with information on herbs and supplements, veterinary medical references, and scads of other helpful material. Some chapters, such as those that discuss quality of life and euthanasia, are hard to read, but they simply and honestly discuss what you’ll need to consider.
Dr. Ettinger’s chapters are essential, just-the-facts information about specific, common types of cancers: description, diagnosis, prognosis, common therapies, and, at the end of each, “The Bottom Line.” If you hear a diagnosis of cancer, these chapters are the ones to seek out first in order to fully understand your enemy.
A number of related web-based resources have sprung up around the book, including a site with over 40 special videos (with transcripts) on specific types of cancers, and the Dog Cancer Blog (where the original e-book first edition of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide was created and sold).
To be honest, the book is not without warts. Dressler uses the AR-icky term “guardian” to denote a dog owner — oooh, excuse me: “pet parent” — who loves his dog enough to be the dog’s best health advocate. The rest of you are mere “dog lovers.” Poo on you. Also a bit off-putting were the frequent and fervent testimonials planted throughout the book. Although some contained genuinely useful information, their presence (combined with the section on backlash from other members of the veterinary community) gives the appearance of approval-seeking from the reader — not what you really need from an authoritative reference. Unless one happens to be religious, the inclusion of prayer as a medical therapy leaves one wondering whether or not voodoo might be listed next. Use it if it works for you, but please don’t sell it as science. To Dressler’s credit, the numerous commercials through the book for his cancer-fighting supplement Apocaps are balanced by an honest discussion of the supplement’s contents and what each component does.
I worked for a while as a web developer for a virtual office company, creating marketing sites almost exactly like dogcancer.tv. The experience taught me a great deal about online marketing and sales, audience analysis, targeted use of free content, and how to keep a casual reader’s attention long enough to (hopefully) persuade that reader to become a customer — and after that, a repeat customer. One other thing it taught me was to be wary of any website that uses a lot of black and red text in the Impact font, centered, on white, with arrows and autoplaying video. Whether you know it or not, that site is out to sell you something. Just sayin’.
That said, the book itself genuinely lives up to its tagline, “If your dog has cancer, you need this book.” Don’t just read it once, though. Read it multiple times, as many as you need to be absolutely clear about what you’re going to do next. Refer to it again and again. The book is not intended as a substitute for a veterinarian’s care, but use it to work with your vet as part of your dog’s medical team. Even if you don’t agree with everything you read, there is enough genuine, helpful, simply stated information in the book to help you weigh all your options and decide on the best treatment plan.
Even if your dog doesn’t have cancer, you need this book — especially if you happen to have a breed (or mix of breeds) that is predisposed to developing cancer. Read it, and then keep it handy on your reference shelf. You never know when someone you know will need some common-sense advice on how to beat an all-too-common disease.
Want a Copy?
We’re giving away a copy of this fascinating sourcebook for your reference shelf! All you have to do is follow these Wicked Simple Rules…
Wicked Simple Rules
- Like the Dog Cancer Survival Guide on Facebook. If you like, download the free Dog Cancer Diet e-book.
- While you’re there, come on over and Like the Shaggy Dog Stories fan page.
- Leave a comment on this blog saying why you’d like to have this book. Comments on Facebook are always appreciated, but they don’t count toward the entries.
As always, we use a random-number-picking script to find our lucky winnah by comment number.
Entries close on Monday, January 23.
Today’s shaggy dog story comes from Science Daily, by way of the University of York (England) and the Smithsonian. The research attempted to confirm or deny the possibility that Salish weavers (from the Pacific Northwest and western British Columbia) wove blankets and other textiles from dog hair. Another story, recorded by 18th-century Eurpoean explorers, mentions that the Salish raised shaggy dogs for their hair, and kept them apart from the short-haired village dogs to prevent interbreeding. (The findings are published in their entirety in Antiquity.)
Although the tests proved inconclusive — none of the specimens tested were made solely from dog hair, but they all had a lot of dog hair on and in them. This should come as no surprise to anyone who lives with dogs, shaggy or no. If you share your life with a dog, having fur trim on everything just comes with the territory.
It’s just like the song says: There’s dog hair in everything I do!
Bailie of Bothkennar, whose call name was David, was one of the foundation sires for the Bearded Collie in Britain. Along with Jeannie of Bothkennar (an unrelated bitch whom the kennel owner, Mrs. Willison, received from Scotland when she thought she was getting a Sheltie), Bailie of Bothkennar produced the first Bearded Collie litter to be registered with The Kennel Club.
This little Flash video from the British Pathé film archive, shows sculptor Lavender Dower crafting a rubber model of David as well as the molds for the sculpture. The original newsreel is dated April 6, 1953.
To watch the video, click on the image below. Enjoy!
Another Old Shaggy Dog Story!
This British Pathé newsreel is in color and dates from November of 1956.
A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down — very important traits in times like these.
(Robert Benchley, Your Boy and His Dog)
Any experienced dog trainer — especially the ones who teach the beginner and puppy classes — will tell you that the real secret of teaching dog obedience classes lies in training the owners.
Although this concept lies at the heart of Carol Quinn’s Follow My Lead, don’t think for a minute that the book is just about that. The simple-sounding premise (woman at a crossroads in her personal life takes up training her dogs and learns some valuable lessons in the process) unfolds into a love letter to the human/animal bond that’s multi-layered, funny, sad, and philosophical. Along the way, Quinn learns many truths — not always the ones she’d hoped for — about human nature and human frailty. Under the mentorship of a tough cypher of an instructor and with her Rhodesian Ridgebacks to guide her, Quinn manages to parlay the lessons learned on the agility course into useful wisdom for other aspects of her life, too. She learns courage. She learns to ask more from life, and she learns not to settle for what doesn’t work.
Show of hands: Who here has read Karen Pryor’s Don’t Shoot the Dog and then immediately went out and tried to use those same techniques on your family? How many of you ended up confused or frustrated when your family members didn’t respond exactly as the book predicted? Yeah, me too. So did Quinn. She tried it on a longtime lover who had a black hole where his heart should have been, and the experience taught her volumes about things you can fix, things you can’t, and that relationships involve teamwork, too.
As Quinn learns more from her mentor about how to work with her dogs, she discovers that all her relationships evolve — including the one with her instructor and mentor.
You’ll find plenty of situations in Follow My Lead that parallel training tricks you’ve tried or experiences you’ve had, and probably some that lead you to wonder, “Why did she do THAT? I’d have done this…”. That, too, is a lot like life. Whether or not your own experiences track all that closely with Quinn’s, her dog-training-as-metaphor-for-life narrative will lead you to ask questions about yourself, your dogs, and your own life’s journey.
Want to Read It?
We’re giving away a copy of Follow My Lead to one lucky winnah! All you have to do is to follow these Wicked Simple rules…
- Go visit the Follow My Lead Facebook page and Like it: http://www.facebook.com/FollowMyLeadBook
- Leave a comment on my blog that answers this question: What is the most important lesson that your dog has taught you?
- Make sure you leave the comment on the Shaggy Dog Stories blog. Comments on Facebook are always fun and appreciated, but they don’t count.
- Entries close on Wednesday, September 28.
The winnah will be chosen at random by comment number, by someone who doesn’t even read the blog (and thus has nothing at stake).
Carol Quinn is still continuing her journey with her dogs. You can read about her adventures on her blog. In a little while, we hope to bring you an interview with Quinn, asking her about what she’s been up to since the book was published.
Until then, enjoy this little teaser video…