(Behr’s mom writing) Wow, what an emotional roller coaster we’ve been on for the last few weeks with Behr!! 

After a routine vet visit in December for accupunture for Behr’s spine, I was finished and waiting for some paperwork in order to leave. I sat down in the waiting room with Behr standing around in front of me while I happily chatted with other dog owners.

As usual, when people find out how old Behr is, they ask how I’ve managed to to help her have such a long and healthy life, I start telling them things I’ve learned through my researching medical literature. Well, in the middle of this conversation, my world suddenly came crashing down with a sickening thud!! Behr just happened to look at me (her head eye level since I was sitting)…and then she yawned. That’s when I saw the TUMOR in her mouth, hidden by her tongue. I was stunned.

Having lost my prior dane (and other animals as well) to cancer, I suddenly felt like a cold dark cloud of fear had enveloped me. I couldn’t even see out of it and was struggling to remain calm. We were rushed back in to see the vet again. The only good news she had at the time was that at least it didn’t look like melanoma, but only a biopsy would tell us for sure what this was.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, while the vet had been doing acupuncture on Behr only minutes before, we were discussing some neurological symptoms Behr was having. We decided that I should take her to the neurologist and ask if he saw anything serious enough to need an MRI (under anesthesia.) She (Behr’s vet) warned me that this would be really risky for Behr, however, and she advised against it if not necessary. Now here we were discussing a biopsy under anesthesia….the very thing we were trying to avoid!!

That started a whole round of vet visits to the neurologist, dental surgeon (because the tumor was in her mouth), and other veterinarians to decide what to do. The neuro didn’t think her neurological symptoms were worth the risk of 45 minutes under anesthesia for an MRI.  He did, however, caution about the high risk of death due to her age and other factors, as well as the risk of permanent paralysis if her neck wasn’t properly supported during and after the surgery.  All of the vets suggested full removal of the tumor under anesthesia. The dental surgeon even said she might need a large portion of her lower jaw removed. Ugh! That broke my heart even more.

What made this whole thing like torture for me was that Behr seemed oblivious to what was going on. She was totally happy and playful. She literally wants to play A.L.L. day long! She still gets zoomie runs, still goes for hikes, and otherwise has a good quality of life. I just couldn’t risk her becoming paralyzed or dying for something that might possibly not even be life threatening. We did not know for a FACT that this was cancer yet. I knew I couldn’t live with myself if that happened. Obviously, the risk is valid if it’s the only way to try to save her life. I have had animals need emergency surgery and I took that risk. Interestingly, twice in my life I made a decision against all medical advice that ended up saving lives. Once was for a prized horse of mine, once for my son. Cancer is frightening, for sure, but it’s usually NOT an extreme emergency. You can pause briefly to make a clear decision and often go with your gut instinct. (I worked for a while in cancer research…) 

So, after a TON of research about options, I decided that maybe cryosurgery was the way to go, IF I could find a vet willing to try it.

I learned some VERY interesting things about cryosurgery and cancer. I had to keep in mind how very TRICKY cancer can be. It kind of fools the body into thinking it’s harmless so the immune system won’t fight it. “No problem here, immune system. You can leave us alone now.” 

However, more than one report suggested that cryo might stimulate the immune system to fight the tumor. For example, one human study showed that cryo killed tumor tissue and the immune system would finally attack it.

I’m not a veterinarian OR an oncologist, but from what I was reading it sounded like having cryosurgery would be far less risky and if it ended up being cancer, cryo might trigger the immune system to fight it. That seemed like a good plan for Behr, and I decided to pursue it.

The main veterinary surgeon using cryo for tumors was Dr. Martin (Marty) Goldstein in New York. He is the vet that many famous celebrities like Martha Stewart and Oprah take their dogs to for serious issues.

But, it wasn’t really reasonable  for us to go all the way across the country, so I searched for a vet closer than New York. FINALLY, after much searching and even help from other vets searching, I found the option we would choose. Dr. Betsey Hershey, and integrative veterinary oncologist (cancer doc) was only about a 5 – 6 hour drive away. She is integrative, which means she ALSO uses hyperbaric chambers, herbs, and other more natural forms of healing in addition to surgery and chemo. While she was in a neighboring state, this was more practical and affordable for us to attempt. Every conversation I had with her staff before we drove there was simply amazing!! They are incredibly helpful and compassionate.

The plan was a consult on Monday with possible cryosurgery on Tuesday, hopefully done with only a mild sedative. When Dr. Hershey walked into the (beautiful!!) exam room, she came over to Behr, sat down on the rug next to her and took her time petting her and putting her at ease. I’ve NEVER seen a vet do that! Wow!

Unfortunately, she told us the tumor was too big for just cryo, but that she might be able to cut it down to a smaller size and then cryo the base of it. We were sad, but figured it was still the way to go.

Then she had an idea! Since Behr was being pretty co-operative, she offered to squeeze us in sometime THAT day if we could wait. She would attempt a biopsy WITHOUT ANY anesthesia!!! Before you panic (like we did), she said the tumor had very little nerves anyhow. SO, if Behr would co-operate, she would reach in and slice off a chunk for a biopsy…with no risks!

It worked!!!!  Behr came bouncing back from the minutes long procedure happy and acting as if nothing had happened, even though her mouth was a bloody mess. We were amazed!!

Here’s what it looked like AFTER the biopsy. You can’t see the whole thing, but it arises from the bottom of her lower jaw and extends upward toward her teeth. AFTER Behr's biopsy


I could’ve danced out of Dr. Hershey’s office I was so relieved!!  What an amazing, kind, gentle, and considerate doctor she had been! Her staff couldn’t have been more understanding. She did a great job hiring such a compassionate team. No wonder all of the people in her waiting room raved about her. There was a large table in the foyer covered with recent thank you cards that said a lot about her as well. I kept reading things like, “The other vets said our dog only had a few weeks/months to live, but you gave him/her YEARS more, and they were happy dogs until the end” Same with the Yelp reviews. (NOTE: I get absolutely NO financial or other compensation for this review. It is purely written out of gratitude)

The result of the biopsy has now come in. GOOD NEWS! Not cancer! We have the option of leaving what is left of her tumor there and see how fast it grows and if it eventually is a problem for her to eat. Then we would have to talk about surgery. 

After weeks of crying about the possibility of losing Behr when she was still so happy and playful, we were done. Now I could cry for joy. There is still sand left in the hourglass.

Again, I do understand what it’s like to walk an animal through cancer. I’ve done that with my prior dane, a cat, horses, and even some birds. I’ve been there, and it’s a VERY crummy place to be.

For anyone currently going through a cancer ordeal with their pet, my heart breaks for you. It’s simply not right that our dogs are now getting cancer at super alarming rates. They are the canaries in the coal mine, telling us that something is very, very wrong with our environment (food, water, air, etc) and that we need to make some serious changes. 

So, for now, we have some more time left to enjoy our little Behr Behr. We value those moments and are grateful for every one of them. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our day to day lives and forget how SHORT our dogs’ lives usually are. We don’t know how many “tomorrows” we have left with them. I know I’m trying to remember to do as much as I can with Behr TODAY, instead of telling her “Maybe tomorrow I can___”  (take you for a long walk, play with you, let you just enjoy sniffing everything, etc.)  Lets, as a group, start celebrating today with our pups, while we have them.

Remember the hourglass. Once the sand is gone, it’s not coming back.


clear glass with red sand grainer

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

















moose munch

It’s funny how walking along in silence with your dog can MAKE SPACE for contemplation and overall de- stressing from our hectic pace of life. Sure, I like hiking with friends sometimes, but there is no silence to be able to process life. Walking with my dog gives me that needed time. Sometimes I even discover things about myself during that quiet time, but this time my dog taught me a much needed lesson.

When we got Behr as a puppy, she was unbelievably energetic.  We’re not talking normal Dane puppy here; she was a ball of fiery energy that never stopped. She only had TWO speeds…full throttle zooming ahead and sound asleep. No in-between with her.

baby behr with stick

Everything Behr did as a puppy was with full gusto. Life was one big adventure to her. She never walked, she only ran and jumped. I’m NOT kidding.

behr running in oregon

Taking her for walks was seriously exhausting both mentally and physically.  One time as I was being dragged by a neighbor’s house, she yelled out, “Hey, do you get frequent flyer miles with that dog?” She was referring to the fact that I was almost airborne as I chased after my full speed ahead pup. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry when she said that.

Behr had a mind of her own and was seriously stubborn. Ha! I had originally planned to show her in conformation and obedience, but she made it clear that she had other plans. Mind you, I was quite capable as a trainer and had a long history of training some top obedience dogs, horses, and even wild animals for film. Yet, I couldn’t get this puppy to do anything. I had signed up for puppy obedience classes, mainly for socialization, but she got kicked out. It was suggested by more than one nationally known trainer that I get a different dog because this one was incorrigible. Wow, that was humbling after my history of successfully training animals.

BUT, she was the PERFECT dog for me to hike with!  I was “conquer oriented” and aimed to cover as much ground with the most elevation gain possible. I have always kept logs of our distance, speed, and total elevation gain during our hikes. Depending on temperature and season, we averaged 40- 120 miles per MONTH for much of Behr’s life (with time off for my knee surgery and sometimes for work schedule) No matter how aggressively I hiked, I still had to turn Behr loose to run in fields and up hills just to burn off excess energy and make the hike pleasant for me.

Behr had an interesting fault, however. She simply never acknowledged pain. She could injure a paw and I would never know it. The only way I would figure it out was noticing she maybe wasn’t walking quite as fast as usual. She didn’t slow down if she was sick, injured, tired, hot, cold, or anything else. More than one emergency veterinarian pointed out that she was incredibly “stoic” (their word) Looking back, that probably explains why she acted a little dazed but fine after her fall over the cliff in Oregon.  After her neck injury was diagnosed (due to paralysis), I realized in retrospect that her only clue was that she would play hard and then stop suddenly and go lay down, probably due to pain.

Things have slowly changed in the last two years, though. She eventually got to the point of trusting me enough to let me know she had a problem and needed help. If she got a sticker in her paw, she would now STOP and wait for me to come help her. If she was too hot while hiking, she would plop down under a bush or tree until she cooled down.  When she got thirsty, she would pull me over to a large rock (kind of place I usually stopped to water and snacks) and wait for water. She stopped dragging me most of the time, and began to walk at a normal pace. Sometimes she even lags behind me. It feels really odd to walk in front of her for the first time in 11 years. The roles have changed. She loves to stop and sniff things thoroughly or to stand on mountain tops and stare at the view forever. She absolutely LOVES to do that, in fact. I have no idea what she’s even looking at, but she likes it.

Sometimes she decides she is done hiking, or doesn’t want to go the way I do. She puts her little brakes on and like a mule, won’t budge at ALL. OK, maybe with a bribe she’ll get going again. Maybe she wanted to go that way anyhow and got a snack out of it. I don’t know. 

Walking along thinking about all of these changes recently, I realized what an amazing lesson this was for me. I really needed to pay attention to what Behr was teaching me!!!

 I realized that when she began to change, I was kind of agitated inside, although I would never admit it. I think I was so used to her being my “land conquering companion” that I couldn’t believe she was changing. Sure, I knew she couldn’t keep up that pace forever, but was still bothered. My last dane was my training partner for my trip to Nepal and Tibet, and hiked 12 out of her 13 years before the dreaded bone cancer stopped her. Was I somehow hoping Behr would do the same?

behr in ss field









I could looking at her graying face and feet and be visually reminded that it was time for her to slow down some. Not only that, but she has a spinal injury that I need to be careful with. I would think about these things and then feel like the bad “dog parent” for expecting more of her. What was wrong with me to expect her to never slow down?  As we walked more slowly, which I needed to do now anyhow (my spine and leg injury), I suddenly realized what was happening. What I realized was painful at the heart level. Deeply painful, in fact.

Behr, as a younger dog, had been just like me. Together we raced through life and ignored all pain and illness. Yes, I did it too. We were quite the pair. When I had major reconstructive surgery on my knee, the surgeon told me no more hiking on hills. Did I stop? No. As soon as I got out of my full leg brace, I started walking again. I just wear a smaller brace on my knee now. Hiking is a BIG part of my life. I had a job that was very demanding and for over 8 years straight I worked 90 hours per week with no vacation. I was sometimes so exhausted that I would be sick, but would keep going. I, like Behr, even have a serious spinal injury that caused damage to the nerves in my leg. I wear a brace that shocks my leg and helps my foot move. (It had become sluggish and I was tripping a lot) Behr has a spinal injury and slightly drags her back feet as well, wearing her nails down in the process. How odd of a coincidence is that?? We are more alike than imaginable.

Except in one way…

Behr learned to slow down and honor her body before I did. 

I think I subconsciously thought I could be super woman or something. My whole life has been spent trying to prove how capable and strong I am. I was the crazy one that would get up at 4 a.m. and run 10 miles, get the kids off to school, go to the gym, then to work, to their sporting events, and run a 10 acre ranch and keep a humongous house perfectly organized. Oh, and make it all look easy to anyone watching. The list goes on and on for my whole life. What I used to be proud of is now embarrassing to recount. What was I thinking? None of that matters in the end. Really.

So as we wandered through the hills that day, I realized that Behr had grown up and gained wisdom that I needed. She was modeling how life should be lived. Who would have ever guessed that the wild and crazy puppy would one day become my teacher? The lesson she was teaching me was hard to swallow, though. To slow down and admit my physical needs made me feel weak and vulnerable at first.

Since that day, I am trying to honor her requests to stop and enjoy the view from e.v.e.r.y mountain top. I even took a pad to sit on recently and when we got to the top of a mt. she loves, I sat down and let her stare as long as she wanted. I let go of my agenda to conquer miles. She seemed quite surprised, but enjoyed it.

behr looking at view

I’ve even bought a little compact ultralight chair that fits in my backpack to take when the weather is nicer, just so WE can stop and enjoy the mountain tops. I bring snacks and water and we just sit down and have a little picnic together. Honestly, I’m enjoying the view as well. There is so much beauty that I’ve missed in my years of race-walking through life. It’s amazing how powerful the stillness and calm of nature can be for healing our tired souls (see my recent post about forest bathing for more information..) The trick is to go for a walk and NOT spend the time thinking about what we need to do when we’re done. That totally cancels restorative benefit and stresses us out more (because we’re “wasting time”). I’ve taken off my backpack full of expectations (both self-imposed and real) and decided to admit I can’t do everything anymore.

So now what? Well, we’re both taking off our super hero capes and hanging them up. Neither of us need them anymore. Besides, we were never super heroes anyhow. We were only like little kids dressed up in costumes pretending we had super powers. The only ones we fooled were ourselves. And now we are free to run and play like we were meant to, without the heavy weight of the hero capes.

♥ Behr’s mom


watching flower framed

Forest Bathing - Behr

(Different view of yesterday’s post)

Right now, while Mom is typing what I say, I’m lying close by all snuggled in my blankie. We also have the smell of trees drifting through our house. Mmmmm. As soon as she’s done typing we get to go for a walkie and smell lots of trees. Yay! Type faster, Mom!

So, have you ever heard of something called “Forest Bathing?” No, for real. I didn’t make that up. In Japan they call it Shinrin-yoku, which literally means “forest bathing.” It’s where you go for a walk in the forest and enjoy with wonderful pine tree smells and it makes you healthier, happier, and sleep better. It’s not a walk where you rush, but slow down and enjoy the beauty and smells.

The people of Japan are lucky because they have a LOT of forests there (67% of the land!) and it is a recognized form of stress management.    ( Doctors even prescribe it!).  Here are some pictures of me forest bathing. 

(this one was before I started turning white…)Behr walking in forest framed

Here’s me stopping to enjoy the whole forest, not just the smells on the ground. That was HARD for me to learn at first. 🙂

Behr on Forest Trail- Oregon

Here I am standing in the forest and gazing at the peaceful lake. Kind of a forest meditation…

Behr by lake - BB

Ok, so I got distracted with the size of THIS tree. Well, that and the squirrel that ran up it..

Behr in Redwoods

Even the trees themselves seem happier in the forest. I feel sorry for the poor trees that live in the city. They should move to the forest. Really. Maybe we should too 🙂

Happy Tree

Wow, all of this forest bathing really IS making me sleepy…

Behr - Tired on hike

By the way, I know some of you live where it’s snowing right now. That’s ok. You can put a tree in your house like Mom does this time of year, and then go for walks when it’s not snowing. 

May the FOREST be with you 🙂

♥♥ Behr Behr, the Forest Princess

Behr Behr’s mom here.

What an wonderful concept! The Forest Agency of Japan has created acres and acres of beautiful forests for the people to go to in order to “de-stress” and get healthier. It may sound funny to post this in the winter, but winter is when a lot of people feel “down”, so it just might be helpful to consider. I have to wonder if that’s why many people feel so wonderful in the fall and spring, when the weather makes outdoor activities more inviting. (not too hot, not too cold) When there ARE decent days, though, this could be a good thing.

Meanwhile, breathing essential oils of balsam fir (or maybe pine) in an essential oil diffuser could bring cheer, or even looking out of the window at trees if that’s all you have. One time when I had a really painful surgery (out of the MANY I’ve had…), I found that just watching videos of nature helped calm me and reduce my pain levels some.

I actually like to blend essential oils of Balsam Fir mixed with Orange oil for a particularly uplifting blend. Orange oil (or Bergamot even)  has been shown to reduce depression and stress. Of course, having a real Christmas tree or wreath are helpful if you celebrate the holidays with those. Studies have even shown that hospital patients with trees to look at outside of their rooms have faster healing times.

Here’s a great website with more information about what forest bathing is: http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/. 

Australia has created the “Healthy Parks, Healthy People” program (http://www.hphpcentral.com/) modeled after Japan’s Shinrin-yoku, and it is s.l.o.w.l.y starting to catch on here in the U.S.A. as well. Emphasis on the word slowly.

So, being the major scientific research fanatic that I am, I have been pleasantly surprised at the amount of evidence that exists to support the concept of forest therapy building our health.

For example, breathing the oils (called phytoncides) from the coniferous trees (tree that have cones, like pines) has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and anger. These same oils increase your natural killer cells that help prevent tumors. The tree oils basically build your immune system. Important to keep up, even in winter. We just have to bundle up and convince ourselves to go outside on decent days in the winter 🙂 

It’s recommended to spend at least 20 minutes in the forest, and if you spend 2-3 days there (vacation anyone??) the effects on your immune system can last up to 30 days afterward. Wow! Even just 20 minutes can reduce cortisol (stress hormones) by 13%, however.

Forest bathing also increases your creativity and problem solving capability. Many famous authors and inventors did their creative thinking on walks. 

If you are so inclined, you can learn more basic information on these websites:





Ok, I’m going to bundle up and brave the cold, dreary, windy weather to take Behr for a walk now. Both of us need help with our immune systems, so that’s my motivation for the moment. Brrr.

You guessed it! ME! Yippee! SO rare for Great Danes to make it to my age, although I’d love to live longer than Mom’s last dane girl, Cody. Cody lived to be 13 before the ugly “C” word cut her life short. She is the sister I wish I could have known and played with. We would have loved each other, and loved Mom together. 

Anyhow, to celebrate this big day, AND to celebrate one year since I was paralyzed, Mom planned a special day for me. She packed the car with our travel stuff and we drove something like 18 hours (in dog time) to get to a special forest that I love. Read the rest of this entry »

Behr looking at view

Wooden dog R

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(Note: this is part 2 of the story of Behr’s paralysis. For the rest of the story, please read part 1)

We came home from the vet hospital and then got a second opinion (and third!). I think a second opinion is one that only takes a second to explain or something.  

Mom still used the harness to help me go potty outside because I couldn’t walk by myself anymore.

Then she gave me some tiny pills and I began to feel better!! After 2 days I could walk a little, although I was kinda wobbly. By two weeks, I could even run again, and celebrated by a brief zoomie run in the house (before she stopped me).

Then we started going to a new vet that I REALLY REALLY like. I’m so excited when we get to the new vet place that I jump around and cry for joy in the car. The only other time I do that is when we drive to hiking places.

The new vet takes porcupine quills and sticks them in my back. I like it and usually lie down and fall asleep when she sticks me with them.

I think Mom should just get a porcupine for me and borrow their quills all the time.

The the vet puts a funny mask on me like this:

racoon framed

Ok. Just kidding. It really looks like this: 

Doggles framed

Then the vet uses laser on my back. Not the kind for playing laser tag. It feels NICE!! I get so relaxed that I walk like I’m drunk when I try to leave the vet place. Sometimes I even crash into things. Oops.

So now I can totally walk all by myself and even go for hikes with Mom again. Yipee!! 

♥♥ Behr Behr, the racoon masked dog playing laser tag with the vet 🙂 

Behr’s mom here. Behr’s version of the story is funny, but she kinda left out a few things. I’ll fill you in.

Wow. I got home from getting opinions from the veterinarians and felt absolutely CRUSHED. What should I do with a dog who absolutely LOVES running and jumping and hiking and zoomie runs…but may never even walk again? There’s always that “quality of life” talk that I hate. I understand it, but hate it, nonetheless.

She couldn’t walk with her back legs. They hung, useless, and even crossed when I half carried her to go potty, with her feet dragging and folded over (knuckling under). Her disc injury at C5-C6 was pretty bad, in addition to intervertebral disc disease/bone spurs in her lumbar spine. Not good.  

As if that weren’t bad enough, I had suffered a career ending spinal injury myself right before this. That left me with nerve damage in my right leg, so severe that I have to use a Walk-Aide brace that shocks my leg to cause my foot to lift so I can walk. walk aide brace framed

I was all too familiar with spinal nerve pain, and knew how debilitating it could be.  I also wondered how in the world I, in this condition, could care for Behr.  Seriously, I was on stress overload.

My heart was swirling with emotions that were all over the place and I couldn’t get them to stop swirling. I was suddenly putting together little clues that she had problems since the fall, but hadn’t connected the dots to recognize what they meant. To be fair, I HAD taken her to the vet multiple times and told them the “clues”, but no one figured what they pointed to.

Behr LOVES rolling in the grass, but would try to and sometimes stop suddenly and jump up. We’d throw a ball for her which she would run hard for several times and then stop suddenly and go lay down or even run and hide. On hikes, she would sometimes start panting even when it was 45 degrees F. The vet checked her legs and other places with no response from Behr that would indicate pain. We checked her thyroid even.

Now that I found out that she had maybe been in pain for a while, I felt horrible. What kind of dog mom am I? Ugh. The regret can eat at you.

So, a few years earlier I had become curious about so-called “alternative medicine” because of some  of my friends who are doctors,pharmacists and pharmacologists (create the drugs) were telling me they had great results with herbs, homeopathy, and other methods.

I ordered a veterinary book about homeopathy because my pharmacologist friend said it was the very safest form of medicine, even for animals. The book had been sitting on my shelf, unread, for weeks.

Then the thing with Behr Behr happened. Suddenly I was open to anything that would help her.

I tried some suggestions in the book (By Dr. Richard Pitcairn DVM) and was totally shocked at the results!!!! It couldn’t be placebo effect since dogs have no idea what you are giving them or why, and no pre-conceived ideas of what the pills should do. No way it was “all in Behr’s head” and not real. She went from not walking to running within 2 weeks. No cart (wheelchair), no crate rest, no physical therapy, no pharmaceuticals.  

Because of the shocking results, I then sought out a veterinarian trained by Dr. Pitcairn to further evaluate and treat Behr. She LOVES going to see her. That’s scary. What dog does that!?  

Behr has her pain managed with herbs, homeopathy, and cold laser. No side effects from pharmaceuticals. For now, this is working. I’d love to have stem cell treatment for her if they could do it without anesthesia.

I did have to get a ramp for her to get into our vehicle with, and switch to a harness instead of her collar for walking. Those are such minor changes in the overall scheme of things.  

The point is, she’s still here, and still able to enjoy life. It works out ok that we both walk slower now and have to take breaks. I had always walked like I was in a race, trying to see how much ground we could conquer, as fast as possible, with lots of elevation gains along the way.

Today I’m just happy to just be with Behr. She gets to go “sight seeing” with her nose because I’ve slowed down enough for her to take in all of the wonderful smells. I’m not constantly hurrying her along on my agenda to conquer.  And I now notice beauty all around that I never took the time to see because I was always rushing. How could that be a bad thing?

So here we are now, on the one year anniversary of this whole injury. Since then, she’s won more titles in her favorite sport (nosework), played at the beach, gone for hikes, and taken vacations.  

Quality of life? I think so. Hers and ours.

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