Wednesday, March 23, 2011

11 Stones: Angel

It's been a frikkin awesome week. Murphy has been mostly smiles since our third anniversary.

The edema in his left eye has improved significantly. Too early to call it trauma unrelated to tumor but it's an improvement nonetheless.

His snout is still snotty but it's not draining as much... could be the spring pollen count in Memphis is plugging him up... dunno.

Another curious development is since late January, Murphy has reeked of decaying flesh from radiation necrosis of his nasal tissue I suppose. Some days it was pretty ripe. That's gone now, too.

I don't know whether taken together these are a new manifestation of the disease but I haven't spent much time chewing on it. We've been too busy.

We had an overindulgent St. Patrick's, picnics at Overton Park just about every day, and we recently had dance nite! I turned on my tunes from the 80s & 90s... Mommy G dressed Murphy up in a tux and top hat (yeah, that didn't last too long) but he really got into it and after a few songs kicked Hudson and Buddy off the dance floor.

Nearby is a video of Ginger and Murphy grooving to Sarah Mclachlan's Angel.

Hell, yeah, Murphy still has a few hoots and a hollerin left in him...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Arc, goddamnit

“Arc, goddamnit”

The last time I spoke those words, screamed them really, I was naked and dancing wildly about a campfire a few clicks south of Hancock, Maryland on the C & O towpath to DC. I had stopped in that interesting little town earlier in the day to replenish our water supply and pick up a bottle of Lignanore Terrapin White at a packy, or package stores as they call them in that part of the country.

The wine would complement the two ears of sweet corn I picked from a field the boys and I discovered just off the trail that morning. Farmers always plant a little extra for raccoons I had learned and probably wouldn’t mind us helping ourselves to a modest share of the harvest.

Our goal that day was the Little Pool campground right around the 120 mile mark, a primitive site with a pit, picnic table, and flat piece of ground for a tent smack dab on the bank of the Potomac River. Though it was late August the summer season had been kind and gentle to us and most of our three months on the trail system were slight, neither too hot nor too cold.

The breeze off the water, campfire at my back, boys at my side, a good drink, and roasted sweet corn fresh off the stalk, perfection doesn’t get anymore perfect for me. And yet my mind was caught on something and I couldn’t shake it.

Pittsburgh was more than a month behind us but a conversation I had there had crept alongside ever since. Over dinner with my future literary agent we discussed the idea of writing a book about the walk. Of course I had given it some thought prior to that evening but I didn’t want to get weighted down by it.

“One thing a great story needs”, my agent related to me, “Is a good character arc”. Now I knew what she meant despite never having published a book before. One of my favorite movies is Adaptation in which Charlie Kauffman struggles with the issue but I never really put it into a personal context.

Yet there I was 214 miles later, supping on sweet corn and swilling wine and reflecting on her words…

“What if there is no arc at the end of the walk? How does one make oneself arc? To sell a book you need an arc. The public demands that you arc. Arc me. Arc you…”

And so went the inner monologue until it became quite maddening. Stripped from all pretenses by the wine and fueled by the fire beside me, the rage I’d kept inside all those years since I lost Malcolm fulminated into a fury.

I tore off my clothes and danced feverishly around the campfire screaming at myself, “Arc, goddamnit. Arc”. As though the savage in me could some how summon the will of God.

Perhaps it was my own one act, one man rendition of Lord of the Flies. But trust me; it wouldn’t be something you’d pay to see.

Today is the three year anniversary since Hudson, Murphy, and I left Austin and although I have managed to keep my clothes on most of the time since then, that night still burns so brightly in my mind.

Looking back I guess I had hoped and prayed for, even naively believed that the walk would somehow heal my busted heart and crossing the finish line would forever close that chapter in my life. Instead, it’s more shattered now than when I started and if there has been an arc, it’s inverted.

Meteorologists say the second half, the one after the eye of a hurricane is the worst and maybe that’s why Murphy’s cancer has been harder on me than that of Malcolm's.

There’s no great quote, no profound metaphor or life lesson I have today.

Instead, I’m taking Murphy to a local Irish pub appropriately named Murphy’s to toast a pint that we’ve made it this far.

Happy third… cheers to the fuzzybutts. Long live the fuzzybutts!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Lydia Best, a long-time supporter of ours and a board member of 2 Million Dogs recently lost her beloved English Bulldog, Lily, after a long battle with chronic seizures.

The boys and I spent several weeks with her and husband, Pat, in Leesburg Virginia and let's just say Lily and Hudson had a, ahem, special relationship. Nearby pic almost says it all. We all know that Hudsy is quite the ladies man and Lily wasted no time in letting him know she was available.

I never got to meet Daisy, Lydia and Pat's first bulldog they lost
to cancer but Lily was really quite something. She had a complex set of emotions and grunts, snorts, huffs, and puffs to vocalize them and before I met her I had no idea dogs could emote so theatrically.

Our hearts go out to their family...

Friday, March 11, 2011

13 Stones: Bucket List

Two things have happened since my last post:

First Murphy has gone a little gammy in his hind legs. His mobility hasn't been affected yet but getting up and down occasionally gives him fits and starts. This I don't believe is tumor related. It seems more likely to me that it's a progression of the spinal arthritis I first noticed back in Colorado rather than motor cortex involvement.

Second, I discovered a white membrane developing on his left cornea Tuesday. My kneejerk reaction was the cancer had breached the orbital bone and it was threading through Murphy's eye socket like a kudzu vine. I thought to myself, well it's only a matter of time now, but an inconsistency convinced me to consult with Dr. Blackburn, his Memphis vet. Why wasn't there pronounced protrusion of the eye as I have seen in so many cases?

Blackburn diagnosed it as corneal edema secondary to Murphy's nasal cancer. He feels the tumor is commandeering the blood supply around his eye to feed its own growth and that's causing fluid retention. There is an outside, way outside, chance it could be as a result of trauma but regardless the consensus is Murphy isn't in any discomfort for now. We started him on topical steroids and hopefully that will reduce the swelling.

Both of these developments got me thinking with lightening speed and clarity. Time is running out on me and Murphy. What haven't we done together?

So I've started a Bucket List and since then we've checked off two things you should do with your dog before they die.

1. One word. Ragtop. Have you ever taken your pupper for a drive in a convertible? It's the ultimate ride for a dog. Smells coming in from all directions... a smorgasboard of sensations. Belt them in, take down the top, and turn on some badass driving tunes for a righteous experience. Cost: If you get caught giving the middle finger to cancer at any point during your drive you may have to pay a fine subject to the state you're driving in.

2. Art class part I. I should've known there was an artist inside of Murphy. We took he and Buddy to Seize the Clay to ceramictize(?) their pawprint and Murphy had such a whopping good time that his nom de guerre is going to be Murphyangelo. Bringing the clay out on a giant sized plate may have inspired him as he tried to snarf it down. But damn no artist for their indulgences... The nearby pic is his pawprint and the mold I chose. Cost: $10

Budman did good, too but he was restless and I think he had to pee. Perhaps he's more into performance art...