Unearthing creative possibilities: Trish Roque's website, personal blog, & portfolio

Archive for the ‘Animal Advocacy’ Category

Some facts on canine melanoma

Siwa sleeping again!Needless to say that I’ve been scouring the web for information on canine melanoma. Here’s the important stuff:

  • it is an aggressive form of cancer that typically appears in the mouth
  • dogs that are beyond the initial stages will not survive beyond five months with conventional therapies
  • treatment often includes radiation and surgery
  • the cancer spreads rapidly and is often unresponsive to chemotherapy
  • it can be incredibly painful
  • most common in dogs with dark pigmentation
  • there is a vaccine that has shown promise in clinical studies; published reports have included individuals whose cancer completely disappeared!!

Here are some facts about Siwa, based on the lab results from the vet:

  • though she is 12 and has cancer, her blood work apparently had a healthy dose of all the good things (sorry I’m a little fuzzy on the details)
  • she has a healthy appetite (loss of appetite is a bad sign)
  • she still has control of all her bodily functions (thank goodness!)
  • she can still see, hear, and smell
  • though she has slowed down on the trail, she still exhibits a playful enthusiasm when she hears the word W-A-L-K
  • in short, if it weren’t for the cancer, she would be perfectly healthy

Back to the vaccine. The vet said she is a good candidate for the vaccine, which is administered four times in two-week intervals.

It’s expensive (~$700/shot) but not as expensive as the less successful surgery and radiation (~$5K-$8K), nor is it as uncomfortable. If the tumors grow back after the first two shots, then we know the vaccine is not working and we discontinue with the treatment and just give her painkillers. My biggest concern has always been Siwa’s quality of life. This was the least intrusive, least painful, and least expensive option.

Siwa was with me at the beginning of my journey into adulthood – she put up with a lot from me, including every significant relationship I’ve ever had, five moves (one of which involved crossing several state lines), two cats, and Sammy. It’s the least I can do for her.


Spoiling my dog…

And enjoying every minute of it!!

Though Siwa has slowed down, she still enjoys being outside – not around the block outside, but in the hills, among the flowers and cow poop outside. See:

Siwa in the flowers

Her front legs were shaved so the vets could run the IV fluids through her after the surgery to remove her tumors, hence the funny looking legs.

Sam & Siwa

It is a challenge walking two dogs who have incompatible needs and energy. That’s why I started the separate walks. However, I don’t always have that kind of time (it’s pretty rare actually!). Fortunately, we live in the Bay Area, where even I can find a secluded field where Sammy can run amok and chase sticks that I throw at him which he doesn’t bring back and instead chews and eats, and little furry animals that are fortunately quicker than him. Siwa just enjoys the scenery.

Here are recent drawings of her. I have to admit, Siwa foreshortened is a tad difficult, especially with her short, bear-like muzzle:

Siwa sleeping

siwa dreaming


When it rains…

…need I complete this sentence?

Jon is in NY with his mom because his sister is ill with cancer. His mom’s husband is in the hospital recovering from a quadruple bypass. Our good friends down the road just returned from the hospital with their one-year old who is still trying to get over a bout of pneumonia. Jenny’s dog continues to wear the cone because her tummy is stapled with stitches. Our roof is still leaking from all the rain that has fallen these past few days (yes, it is also literally pouring).

And the storm for me came when I took Siwa to the vet for a routine dental. They discovered two large golf-ball sized masses in her mouth that was responsible for her drooling and recent foul breath (hence the impetus to get her teeth cleaned). The vet thinks it’s melanoma. She won’t know for certain ’til next week. I fear and am expecting that her diagnosis is right – what else can explain the sudden foul breath, especially since the vet saw Siwa in December for her routine checkup and shots, and she was given a clean bill of health?

Siwa will be 12 on Valentine’s Day. I fully expect her to live for a while longer. I hope I am not disappointed.

Expect to see more drawings of the sweetest creature I have ever known:

Siwa sleeping


Lessons from my dog: growing old with grace

I don’t often write about my pets, though my site is full of their pictures. But lately, I’ve felt compelled to write about Siwa, who will be 12 years old in February (update: she is actually older than I thought considering I gave her birthday as the date I adopted her ~ she was 2 months old at the time so her actual birth month is December). She is a very special dog, one who has been with me through a number of life’s pages. Heck, she was with me through every significant relationship I’ve had with the exception of the first. She has been my constant companion since my early 20s, making the trek with me from New Mexico, where she was born and bred.

Siwa in Tahoe 12/2008

She has been an avid hiker, like me, since she was a pup. When I arrived in the Bay Area, she was diagnosed with severe arthritis in her elbows. She was four at the time. It didn’t seem to stop her. She would chase cows, squirrels, cats. We ran through the trails of Redwood Park in the Oakland hills. She would always be along exploring the parks of the East Bay with me, just as we had done through the trails of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in New Mexico.

Two weekends ago marked a significant time in both our lives: I started giving her a separate walk on the trails because she is no longer able to keep up on our regular hikes with Sammy, our 4-1/2 year old Border Collie. It takes her about an hour to walk less than a mile.

We spent the New Year’s weekend playing in the snow up in Tahoe. Siwa had to stay behind for the snowshoeing trip, which made me really sad. But after she and I took a walk down the snow-filled road, she looked at me with her big brown eyes as if to say, “It’s ok. I’ve had my fun. I know my limits and I’m good with it.”

It’s really hard to see her slowing down so quickly in the last six months. But every step she takes, she does so with her tail wagging. She moves at her own pace, confident that she will get to where she needs to go in her own time. She is secure in herself, sometimes to the point of being aloof. (She is more like cat than dog in that way.) She is incredibly patient, though she does not hesitate to warn other dogs when they have crossed the line. She will defend herself but she rarely starts the fight. (That would be Sammy!) She is very forgiving, and is quite content to just enjoy her life.

*Sigh* I want to grow old gracefully like her. *Sigh*

Tired Siwa

This photo was taken after we hiked a good 3-4 hours in the mountains above Kangaroo Lake in Northen California this past summer. We crossed the Pacific Crest Trail at one point. She plopped on her bed upon our return to the campsite. Jon, Sammy, and I decided to take a dip at the lake, to which Siwa said, "I'm not moving from this spot!" Not bad for an old gal!


Oakland Zoo apprenticeship update

A Mixed Bag

The apprenticeship has been an interesting mix of fulfillment and challenges. On the one hand, I’ve really enjoyed working with and being in close proximity to the animals. On the other hand, zookeeping is physically demanding. I’m constantly on my feet, cleaning, feeding, herding, moving hay and straw, and in general, going non-stop all day long. I come home with little energy to do much else.

This particular apprenticeship program is suited for those who are looking to gain first-hand experience of zookeeping, and ultimately, a career change. These first few weeks have made me realize that I do not wish to become a zookeeper. (I really do enjoy making websites!)

If anything, I’ve gained an appreciation for what zoos and their keepers do for the animals. It’s not easy making a living as a zookeeper in the Bay Area, and certainly, most who work at the zoo do not do this for the money. These keepers are following their calling – their path in life. I’m all for that!

Finding balance has been difficult

Since starting my apprenticeship almost 4 weeks ago, juggling responsibilities for my various activities has been challenging. I work at a “regular job” 4 days a week. My freelance work continues to grow and I find it necessary to spend evenings and weekends focusing on these projects. And, up until recently I was putting in 16 hours per week at the zoo.

I’m not superwoman nor do I want to be. I was forced to look at my responsibilities and prioritize, especially because I was no longer enjoying much of anything. In essence, I was juggling 3 jobs. I had to look very closely at my goals and found that having a balanced life was very important.

I have since made arrangements to cut my apprenticeship time to 8 hours per week, with an increase in the overall duration of time that I am at the zoo. Life feels more sane!