Law and Order: Canine Intent
In the cancer treatment system, brain tumors can be found in two equally important groups: The dog owners who get them and the canines who cause them. These are their stories.
So, shortly after my diagnosis with a glioblastoma multiforme tumor, I did what any self-respecting (former) journalist would do: I tried to keep my eyes from glazing over during conversations with the medical professionals who are actually treating me, then went home and Googled the term “glioblastoma” to educate myself with totally unsourced but easy-to-read research aimed at no one in particular. Imagine my dismay when the second paragraph of the Wikipedia article on GBM whacks me over the head with this little factoid that my doctors had carefully kept hidden:
“Glioblastomas are also an important brain tumor of the canine, and research is ongoing to use this as a model for developing treatments in humans.”
So, deciding that the time had come for some heavy postdoctoral-level research, I clicked the hyperlink taking me to another page called “Canine Brain Tumors” and this is what it said (dog owners, pay attention):
“Cancer of the nervous system is common in domestic canids to include primary neoplasia of the peripheral nervous system, primary neoplasia of the central nervous system and various metastatic cancers. Some of the most common of the central nervous system tumors are several types of primary (originating from brain tissue) canine brain tumors. Examples of these include: meningiomas, astrocytomas, glioblastomas, oligodendriomas, choroid plexus papillomas, and pituitary adenomas. Breeds predisposed to brain tumors include: Boxer Dog, Pug, English Bull Dog, Boston Terrier, and Golden Retrievers.”
Because I am an extremely thorough investigator, I read that entire paragraph. I was somewhat encouraged to learn that my dogs are not on that list of breeds. They are both Jack Russell Terriers that I found through rescue groups in 2008. Chopper is a 2-year-old black and white male with probably a bit of rat terrier mixed in. He was turned in at a pet shelter near Inverness, Fla., by a young woman who thought he was so adorable she couldn’t stand to live with him. (That happens a lot with feisty, high-energy Jack Russells like Chopper, especially after the TV Show Frasier went into syndication. It also happens a lot with humans in general in rural Citrus County, where women regularly adopt adorable but ultimately unbearable males and later kick them out of the house). Kaley is the brown-and-white female whose age is somewhat in question. She was a stray dog taken into the pound in Miami-Dade County and saved by an organization called Russell Rescue Inc., which is how I adopted her. She’s supposedly just two or three years old, based on a veterinary exam. But everyone who sees her believes she is definitely many years older than Chopper. She has a very sweet disposition and is not nearly as rambunctious as Chopper.
Chopper does stuff like unreel whole rolls of toilet paper and root through wastebaskets to pull items out and then spirit them away to his Supersecret Dog Hiding Place That No One Else In The Cosmos Knows About (under my bed). Kaley, on the other hand, sleeps. But when Chopper finally gets on her last nerve, she puts the hammer down and lets him know who’s boss. If she gets pissed off at him, sometimes she’ll stand in the doorway and not let him come into the house. Kaley is afraid of no dog, no matter what its size. A couple months ago, she stood her ground against a young female Doberman in the park where we all go walk twice a day. The Doberman ran away, but only after taking a chomp out of Kaley’s hindquarters that cost $300 to stitch up. Then just last weekend, in the same park, both Chopper and Kaley shot out with the speed of a couple of heat-seeking torpedos to meet a huge Mastiff-Weimaranar mix that was surging toward us like a Los Angeles class nuclear-powered submarine. When the Mastiff part of the big dog simply growled and barked, Chopper veered off as if anti-torpedo chaff had been deployed. But Kaley dug in and started barking back and scratching at the ground, getting right in the huge hound’s face. He returned the courtesy by taking her entire wriggling body between his jaws and pinning her to the ground on her back. Thank God for the gentle Weimaranar half of him. He didn’t even break any skin, just held her there firmly until his owner and I reached the scene. When I took Kaley into my arms, she was trembling with her eyes ablaze, ears swept back, heart racing at about 200 beats a minute and coat soaked all over with Big Dog Spit. It took about 10 minutes to calm her down. I’m still not sure she’s learned her lesson about mixing it up with big dogs, though.
Anyway, both Chopper and Kaley are good enough dogs to be left loose in the house whenever I go out. Still, when I’ve been out for a couple hours and come back to find that any mischief has been made (such as papers strewn on the floor, a sock in the middle of the kitchen or a chair leg chewed on) I automatically blame Chopper. And he usually goes along with that storyline by looking guilty as hell and skulking away while I pet Kaley. This is yet another example of how dysfunctional families are so much more organizationally efficient than healthy families that waste so much time tracing problems to their roots, talking things through and arriving at solutions that lead to personal growth for everyone involved.
So in that spirit, I’m just blaming Chopper for causing my brain tumor. Might as well. Between the 10 minutes of solid-gold, unassailable Wikipedia research I did and his crazy and mischievous behavior in general, I’m developing a theory that brain tumors can leap from canines to humans, and that that’s exactly what happened here. By the way, my real name is District Attorney Jack McCoy, and I still say my hottest assistant was Claire Kincaid and no, we were NOT having a steamy affair during her years on the show. Now I just need to send Briscoe and Logan to do some follow-up detective work and then we’ll just tidy this whole mess up after the next commercial break.
I believe I have a pretty good case against Chopper, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Don’t you?