Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Love and Lullabies: Farewell, Sweet Sophie

In this very special and attentive network of families of pets with cancer, word travels fast. Although it's taken me some time to post an update for our friends at RCF, many of you may have heard through other channels that my sweet Sophie passed away on June 17. What a tragic time for so many of our fellow pet parents - we had also lost Naleya, Potter, Roxy, and Celia the kitty (plus even a few others I've met throughout Sophie's fundraising campaign) within just a few weeks. Although I'd had nine months since her diagnosis to prepare emotionally and imagine every possible outcome, I was definitely taken by surprise.

When I posted our last update, "Time To Exhale," Sophie and I were settling in for some much-needed R&R - she after her second of two radiation treatments, and I after surgery to restore my hearing in my left ear. Knowing I would be required to abstain from physical activity for a couple of weeks and that Sophie would be resting up, I scheduled our procedures so that we could recover together. Sophie was undergoing a fairly uncommon treatment known as half-body radiation. It is a series of two radiation treaments, spaced two weeks apart with a strong dose of chemo in between. The desired outcome is extended remission from lymphoma. I was hoping for two more years.

Sophie's oncology team was thorough in explaining what to expect during her recovery: little to no side effects following first radiation, normal chemo effects in the interim week, and some tough times following second radiation (GI issues, inappetance, lethargy, diarhhea) followed by a return to healthy remission. Things played out as expected, and Sophie and I were a couple of lazy lumps around the house that week! We were able to manage a couple of short daily walks, and of course Sophie would muster all her energy to give our two roommates ("aunties" Hilary and Rae Ann) the usual waggly greetings as they came and went. She also enjoyed visits from the friends and neighbors who checked in on us that week, which was a real treat for both of us.

Unfortunately as I was regaining my bearings (and my hearing), Sophie seemed to be heading in a different direction. After a few days with very little food and extreme lethargy, I decided to take her the hospital for a checkup on Friday, June 17. I wasn't yet cleared to lift anything over five pounds, but Sophie wasn't up for the walk down to Broadway to catch a cab, so I hoisted her up onto my shoulder, like an infant (this always makes our roomies giggle). Hilary helped us downstairs and we were on our way. Of course Sophie did her usual show-off routine for the doctors, rendering useless my claims that she could barely walk on her own. After a thorough examination and sample collection, everyone felt that although she was struggling, her symptoms were within the normal range, given her recent radiation treatment. The doctor was comfortable sending us home with an appetite stimulant and anti-nausea meds, and told us they'd be in touch that afternoon with her test results.

I had just enough time to settle Sophie back into her comfiest spot, run down to my otolaryngologist at NYU Medical Center, and have the surgical packing removed from my ear. After wearing a hearing aid for over a year, I was elated to hear the sounds of the city in my left ear without it! I returned to Sophie's side and we enjoyed a long nap together while she sprawled on my chest. We were awakened at 6:00 pm by a call from the doctor who'd seen us earlier at NYC Veterniary Specialists. She had bad news, and everyone at the hospital was stunned. Sophie's blood calcium was sky-high, indicating that her cancer had returned with a vengeance. Her kidneys were in danger from the hypercalcemia and I had to bring her back in as soon as possible.

The next thirty minutes played out too dramatically, like some tragic, surreal film about inevitable heartbreak. The skies had just opened up in a passing yet brutal downpour, and hailing another taxi would prove nearly impossible. I placed a few frantic and tearful phone calls to friends with access to cars, to no avail. I stood in the lobby of our building holding Sophie, wrestling with whether I should wait out the storm or make a run for it. I did the latter, and by the time a taxi finally stopped, we were both soaked. On our way to the hospital, I had already decided that our fight had gone on long enough. The return of Sophie's cancer so soon after such a promising treatment was a sure sign that we had done everything we could. Most of the oncology team had left for the day, but many of the technicians saw Sophie on their way out, and stopped by for kisses and to say goodbye. My neighbor and dear friend Melanie, the same friend who happened to be with me the day I first brought Sophie to NYCVS, happened to be a few blocks away at the time. She rushed over and waited for me while I said my own goodbyes, and then saw me home.

That day began and ended on two entirely opposite ends of a spectrum of hopes and expectations. Still, I felt lucky that the decision came to me as definitively and peacefully as it did. And what better way for my girl to spend her final days than playing nurse to her mom, receiving so many loving visitors, and seen off by the caregivers who'd fought with her every step of the way. It was a week filled with snuggles, love and lullabies.

I'd like to emphasize that Sophie's passing is not attributed to her treatment plan; her cancer took full advantage of this vulnerable moment to return, and it simply wouldn't back down. Half-body radiation has favorable outcomes in dogs with lymphoma, which was carefully considered by the experts at RCF when they agreed to help us with the costs. I am not a medical expert by any means, but as a pet parent, I wholeheartedly advocate this treatment option and I don't regret our choosing it. In the spirit of openly sharing information on all available treatment options, here are the links to two studies on which the half-body radiation treatment is based:

"Sequential low-dose rate half-body irradiation and chemotherapy for the treatment of canine multicentric lymphoma."
Lurie DM, Gordon IK, Théon AP, Rodriguez CO, Suter SE, Kent MS.
J Vet Intern Med. 2009 Sep-Oct;23(5):1064-70. Epub 2009 Jul 14.

"A toxicity study of low-dose rate half-body irradiation and chemotherapy in dogs with lymphoma."
Lurie DM, Kent MS, Fry MM, Théon AP.
Vet Comp Oncol. 2008 Dec;6(4):257-67.

Although I'm still in the darker moments of my grief, I know there are many favorable outcomes to look forward to, thanks to the people and organizations I have come to know during Sophie's illness. After six years of life as a "single doggy mom in the city," scheduling my days around walks and meals, declining invitations in lieu of cuddling at home, and constantly worrying whether Sophie had all that she needed from me, I have more time and options available to me than I'd care to have. But when the dust has settled, I'll want to create new ways to channel Sophie's struggle into hope and funding for more families of pets with cancer. (I'm beginning to train for my first running of the NYC Marathon in November, a prolific fundraising opportunity if ever there was one!) My sadness will be overwhelmed and overturned by the treasure trove of memories of Sophie and the new friendships she brought into my life. My lullaby to Sophie the day she passed was "Lean On Me," and someday, I'll be there for YOU to lean on, too.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sophie & Jenny: Time To Exhale

Last Thursday, Sophie completed half-body radiation treatment, a supplement to her chemotherapy which is expected to boost her remission by as much as two years. It has been quite a roller coaster to arrive at this point, and there have been times when I wasn't sure we would ever get here. When my girl finished chemo back in late April, it was a hard-won milestone for sure. After months of hospital visits, a few health setbacks and a lot of fundraising work, Sophie and I were both ready for a break! At that point I had decided that I didn't want to stop at chemo, but I wasn't ready (or brave enough) to embark on the tough road toward a canine bone marrow transplant. (The transplant has cured cancer in numerous dogs and the Riedel & Cody Fund, together with Save-An-Angel, have been instrumental in helping them obtain this treatment. Please read more about the truly inspiring "BMT Pack" at!) As a compromise, our oncologist suggested half-body radiation for Sophie. It involves two treatments - one for each "half" of the animal's body - two weeks apart, with a dose of chemo in between. It carries a price tag of about $5,000 in New York City, but we had made it this far and felt so supported by our donors and the RCF community that we scheduled the treatment and crossed our paws!

It's important to give the treatment while the animal is early in remission, and the "cancer clock" was ticking. Donations continued to roll in, but there just wasn't enough time to raise the amount we needed. During this time, every day was a struggle for me as I thought about how far Sophie had come, the sacrifices we made to save her and how bravely she has endured her illness. I probably cried at least once a day, worrying that I had let Sophie down by missing our fundraising mark, and questioning whether this treatment was meant to be. Finally, at the eleventh hour, we received word that the Riedel & Cody Fund had come through with enough funding to complete the treatment. Within days, we were back on schedule at the hospital and into the welcoming arms of our health care team, who had been rooting for us all along. It all happened so quickly and my gratitude was overwhelming!

I knew right away that the best way for us to express our thanks would be to do everything we can to help more animals get the help that they need. Luckily, not one but TWO opportunities to do this emerged quickly. RCF was gearing up for their first annual FETCH fundraising event in Connecticut, and a local TV station wanted to meet one of the sponsored animals on short notice. They called us up and we were available, and before we knew it, Sophie and I were making our first onscreen appearance! Shortly thereafter on Saturday, May 21, after running a half-marathon in Brooklyn, I scooped Sophie up in a Zipcar and headed out to beautiful Connecticut for FETCH! We bunked overnight at the home of Mark and Theresa Tillinger (Riedel's mom and dad), along with our friends the Sullens pack, who'd made the journey all the way from Louisiana! It was a weekend we will remember all of our lives, and we spent almost the entire following day napping and dreaming about all the wonderful people and dogs that we met.

I have taken some time to myself over the past few weeks to open my heart and search every corner of myself, unsure of exactly what I was searching for. I think I was grasping for every possible moment of hope and triumph we'd felt since Sophie's diagnosis last October, trying somehow to capture that strength so I can tap into it the next time I need it, or more importantly, the next time someone else does. Most of all, I needed to give myself permission to breathe. After so many months of existing in a state of high alert, it was time to finally exhale.

For the last few days I have been in vigilant mommy mode, so attentive to Sophie's every breath and twitch that I've scarcely completed my own daily tasks. (I'm not sure how long my roomies' patience will hold out concerning my dirty dishes.) I know how important it is to keep track of any changes or abnormalities right now, and there have been a few - some accidents in the house, tentative appetite, a little restlessness during the night. None of these come as a surprise, thanks to Sophie's nurturing oncology team who briefed me on what to expect. So far, the symptoms have been manageable and Sophie just wants to sleep, so of course I am allowing her that.

This morning as I write this update to you, I am home with Sophie, still vigilant and a little concerned that she hasn't had breakfast. I'm sitting here next to her as she sleeps, a little heavy hearted with a mother's worry. But she is sleeping peacefully, and I know that if she needs me, she will let me know in her way. My gut and my heart tell me that she is healing from the inside out, and will emerge victorious into what we hope will be a long, flourishing remission. Most importantly, we are both taking time to just breathe.


Jenny & Sophie

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sophie's Radiation Rehearsal

Sophelina is spending the day at New York Veterinary Specialists in Manhattan with the NYCVS oncology team, undergoing a "dress rehearsal" for half-body radiation. Among the technicians caring for her today are Darlene and Stephanie, who know Sophie very well. They agreed to take a few photos so I could share them with you! Here a link to the set:

Today Sophie was anesthetized so that she could remain motionless in the radiation chamber while precise measurements are taken for the treatments. Half-body radiation is two treatments, two weeks apart, with a check-up in between. She is expected to experience some side effects after the second dose, which will be administered on May 18. The cost of the procedure is about $5,000, but the payoff is unquestionably worth it to me: TWO MORE YEARS of quality life.

Can you help Sophie cross the cancer finish line? We are closer and closer every day, thanks to the compassionate people we have met through the Riedel & Cody Fund. Thank you so much for all of your support!


Jenny & Sophie

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sophie in the New York Post!

Here we are in the New York Post, everyone! Sophie is FAMOUS!

THANK YOU, Riedel & Cody Fund, for helping us get the word out about our campaign!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sophie's Chemo Visit

Hi everyone! Sophie and are working on a new blog entry this weekend, but in the meantime, we wanted to share a video we made of Sophie's most recent chemotherapy visit. If your pet was recently diagnosed and you are feeling apprehensive about starting treatment, maybe seeing Sophie's enthusiasm about seeing her hospital pals will bring a smile to your face. She is being treated at NYC Veterinary Specialists, and she just can't get enough of all the love and pampering she receives there!

Sophie will "graduate" from chemo on Wednesday, April 20. Near the end of the video, I was reflecting on what the past six months have been like for Sophie and me. This experience has tested me in every way, and through it all, Sophie's strength and determination have kept me going. We are very close to the cancer finish line!

Here is a link to the video - I hope it works! If you wish to view it on our Facebook page, you can find us at Enjoy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Super Fun Day In The City With MOM!

Wowwee wow, WHAT a weekend! Mom and I did all sorts of stuff. She's been working waaaay too hard lately and it was so pretty outside, so we spent tons of quality time together and that's my FAVORITE thing to do!

I couldn't wait for Mommy to get home from work on Friday night. I was asleep in my basket when I heard her come in, and she sat down beside me to rub my belly and ask me about my day. After a few minutes she got all sniffly, and I tilted my head to ask her what was wrong. She told me it was just a really long hard day and that she's worried about a lot of things right now. She had a long talk with Kristie and Johnny (Angel's mom and dad), and they are REALLY helping us raise the money I need for radiation. But Mom's afraid she'll run out of time and energy and she doesn't want to let me down. I looked at her in a certain way and tried to let her know that she's an AWESOME mom and I have such a happy life with her. She could never let me down!

Saturday morning was much much better for Mom. Don't you just love waking up and the sun is shining, and the birds are singing and everything seems all happy again and you just can't wait to get outside?! Well that's just what we did! When I see Mom packing her backpack, and she puts in a little bag of treats and a bone, I just know we're going somewhere fun together and I can BARELY contain myself!! I didn't even wait for the elevator, I took off running down six flights of stairs!

First we had to stop at our friend Janet's office for a visit. We were almost late from talking to auntie Kristie and unkie Johnny on Skype (WHOAH! Omidog Skype is SO COOL and I saw the WHOLE PACK over there!!), so we decided to splurge on a cab. I was a really good girl in the car and Mom took pics and stuff. Janet is Mom's therapist and they've been seeing each other since before I even came to live with Mom. I LOVE going to see Janet because she's one of my biggest fans, and she smells like her two pretty cats, and and there's all sorts of nice friendly people at her office, and and and she lets me kiss her a little bit and roll around on her rug which feels rully rully good!!! So I just let the girls talk for awhile and it got pretty boring, and by the time I felt a little snooze coming on, Mommy said it was time to go the park and we took off again!!

Central Park is right across the street and we couldn't wait to get over there. We walked around for awhile, and sat down so Mom could have a sandwich. She gave me my bone to keep me busy for a few minutes, but I was like omidog ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! There's all these other dogs and smelly food and birds and squirrels and horses and things! I'm not interested in any bone, MOM. So we walked some more down by the big fountain and then we saw the big lake. People were out in the lake in rowboats and it looked really fun! Mom looked at the boats, and then she looked at me, and then she looked at the boats again and then back at me, and I knew she was thinking what I was thinking! I've never been on a boat and it's on my bucket list so LET'S GO!!!

Omidog it was SO FUN. I mean SO FUN, like nothing I've ever done before! I could see so much and so far across the water, and we saw turtles and beautiful graceful birds and some fish, and of course other people in their boats, enjoying the beautiful sunshine just like us! I guess they've never seen a dog in a rowboat before, because they kept telling me how cute I am and taking my picture. But I'm pretty used to that stuff.

We walked all the way home after the boat ride and that's like 3 miles or something, which is no big deal for me since my cancer's in remission and I feel GREAT right now. But Mom got pretty tired and I could tell she was ready for a nap. She had to work on Saturday night AND on Sunday...what a BUMMER, right?! Seriously y'all, she really needed a break this weekend and I was more than happy to treat her to a fun day in the New York City sun. We were a couple of carefree city girls!

So that's pretty much it, you guys. I just wanted to tell you how much fun we had crossing one more thing off of my bucket list. There's a LOT of stuff we want to do together before...well, you know. There is no cure for lymphoma and thanks to all our Heroes who helped me get chemotherapy, I really feel like my old puppy self! But the sad truth is that if we don't raise enough money to get radiation for me, we will rully rully be racing against the cancer clock to do all of the other stuff on my list, like going on vacation together, and running around off the leash chasing stuff, and and playing in the ocean and stuff like that.

Omidog NOW I totally understand why Mom is under so much pressure right now! She rully rully loves me and I love her too, and if I can get radiation then it will prolly be like two more years of us being carefree city girls together! We have LOTS of fans like YOU and your doggy loving friends who know how we feel right now and we rully need your help. Can you maybe visit the Ways To Help page on our website and help us out a little bit? If you've already made a donation or if you just can't right now, we know times are hard and we understand! If that's you, you can STILL help by SHARING the links to our videos and blogs on Facebook and stuff. Every little bit helps, you guys!

I'm gonna go crawl into bed now next to Mom. She's snoring like a grandpa over here. Sheesh!


Sophelina Chantilly Smith

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Our Newest Video!

I am really proud of this one, you guys! I have made several videos up this point whenever I've run a race in my Dancing Dog costume or have news to share. This one is a montage of ALL of those races, plus some REALLY sweet footage of Sophie girl at the beginning! It really shows all that we have been doing for the campaign up to this point, and hopefully will move some of you to open your hearts and, if you're unable to donate, at least share the video with your online friends.

Enjoy and SHARE!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Race Review: SIAC St. Paddy's Day 5K

Here's a race review I was asked to write for a friend's website. It may seem slightly off-topic for those of you who are not runners, but I hope you find it interesting just the same.

Hey fellow runners, it's me Jenny, otherwise known as the Dancing Dog! You may have seen me running races in and around NYC in my bright pink tutu and floppy dog ears and thought, "What's the deal with that crazy costume?" Long story short, I'm doing it for my dog.

For those of you who are dog lovers, you understand how they can overtake our hearts and lives. My dog, Sophie, is an eight year-old pit bull terrier whom I adopted six years ago. She has been my constant partner in crime and a has upended my life in the sweetest way. When Sophie was diagnosed with lymphoma in October 2010, I was devastated. Along with the ensuing financial panic as I scrambled to find the best treatment for her that I could afford, I was also hit with an enormous emotional burden—I am currently single and have pretty much always been a one-woman machine (i.e. very independent and reluctant to ask for help). At the eleventh hour, a foundation called Frankie's Friends came through with a generous grant to kick off six months of chemotherapy for Sophie, and in order to raise the rest of the money I needed, I became a fundraiser overnight. That's when was born.

The stuff about Sophie being sick is a huge downer, but working on her fundraising campaign has been a welcome and fun distraction. Sophie's in remission now and feeling great! If you'd like to read more about our progress and learn more about us in general, I encourage you to visit our website or Facebook page ( and to consider making a donation of any amount, or just leaving a few words of encouragement on our guestbook. But for now, this is a race review, folks!

I am up bright and early on the morning of Saturday, March 19, as I have been every weekend morning for out-of-town races over the last few weeks. I am heading out to Prince's Bay for the Staten Island Athletic Club St. Paddy's Day 5K. I live in west Harlem and I don't have a car, so this morning I am opting for public transportation. The race begins at 10am, so at least the sun has come up by the time I head out the door. HopStop has come through for me as usual with spot-on directions: I'll be taking the 1 train down to Park Place to catch the X1 express bus, board the Staten Island Railway at Eltingville, and get off a couple of stops later to walk about a half-mile to the park.

I'm delighted to see that I am a few minutes ahead of schedule...That is, until I take a wrong turn into the park and wind up spotting the registration area across a small bay and a bank of trees! Unless I've packed my wetsuit, there's no way to get over there without backtracking and using the next park entrance. (I mapped the whole ordeal on dailymile and wound up adding 2 miles to my total that day. Ha.) Thank goodness it's a stunning sunny day, so I just breathe, take in the scenery and try not to panic. I hate being late.

Once I'm finally there, I scramble to pick up my bib and swag (cute socks, SIAC, thanks!), and am relieved to see my new friend Josh Pesin! Known as "joshp" here on NYCRuns, Josh recognized my little Dancing Dog icon on some website or other, and when he saw that I planned on running the St. Paddy's 5K, he e-mailed the entire Staten Island Athletic Club that I would be running! I've been working hard to gain exposure for my fundraising campaign, so a favor like this from a fellow runner (whom I'd never met before today) is just invaluable. Josh and I have a quick chat while jogging back to the starting line.

Wolf's Pond Park is a 302-acre gem with shaded woody areas, a gorgeous beach, a dog run, preserved wildlife areas, and a beautiful monument to the veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. Today's 5K course is about half-in and half-out of the park, looping around paths and dirt trails and dipping into the tranquil suburbs. The field is small—maybe a couple hundred runners—and the camaraderie from other runners as we pass each other on the loops is a real boost today. I receive the usual shout-outs along the way, high fives, aside comments ("Was that a bunny?"), and my personal favorite, which is starting to catch on: "WOOF!" I mitigate the occasional quizzical look by shouting over my shoulder as I pass, "It's for a good cause!"

There are a few steep hills that slow me down more than usual. I'm pretty sore from a tough plyometrics workout last Thursday, marking my return to strength training after a too-long hiatus. A friendly woman I recognize from previous races who's about my same pace hovers within a few strides as we trade brief walking breaks following the hills. We don't talk much during the race, but seeing her there makes me feel like I'm running with a buddy. We reach the finish around a respectable 32:30, and I am just fine with that. I'm not here to win, I'm here to have a good time and spread the word about Sophie.

Josh is at the finish line with his camera—Thanks, Josh!—and as I'm taking a quick video for my YouTube channel, I am approached by none other than Steve of NYCRuns. Steve and I have met briefly at a couple of recent races "Hey, it's that dog girl who keeps posting on my Facebook page!"), but have never had a chance to speak at length. We ask about each other's dogs (Steve recently adopted), and share opinions about pit bulls (mine is a poster girl for the breed; Steve is wary) and how the system of pet adoption in our city can stand to be improved. It's great to connect with a fellow runner about these things, and I can tell that Steve is a great person to have in my corner right now.

I'm grateful for some free time to mingle before catching my train back to the city. A young woman named Heather approaches me asking to take a photo, and I give her my card in hopes that she'll send the photo to me. Heather seems genuinely interested in Sophie's story, and tells me about her yellow lab, who died of a stroke. He was trained as a seeing-eye dog before losing his own vision to cataracts, and lived a long and lucky life with Heather. These are the kinds of conversations I love to have, because they leave me with a feeling of being part of a larger community. These moments go a long way toward helping me stay strong for what lies ahead for Sophie.

In addition to Josh, Steve, and Heather, my other memorable meeting is with a gentleman who rivals me closely for silliest costume, decked out in St. Patrick's Day regalia and an enormous pair of sunglasses. He's a warm and gragarious guy who also happens to be a walking race calendar—I'm tempted to take notes as he rattles off his upcoming events!

I take a few more photos at the finishing area, take advatange of the water and plentiful snacks on offer, and get ready to leave. I've really grown to enjoy these smaller hometown races, with their warm reception and friendly vibe. I feel like a VIP today! Josh and Steve offer me a ride to the train on their way to the post-race party, which I'm sad to have to miss. (Sophie and I have an important doggie playdate back in the city this afternoon.) This race will make 45.7 "Tutu Miles" for me, and it was clearly worth the trip.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Huge News. HUGE!

Over the last two weeks, Sophie and I have had several blessings bestowed upon us in quick succession. We have so much to tell you!!

First, our friend Michelle at the Riedel & Cody Fund reached out on our behalf to a public relations firm they have been working with, Mind Over Media PR. The founders, Lisa and Jocelyn, called me and took the time to listen to our story. They are now working with their contacts in the media to generate interest in our cause! Sophie tells me all the time that she is ready for her close-up, and if everything goes as planned, we might be appearing on TV or giving interviews to share our story and inspire other parents of pets affected by cancer. "Winning!"

Second, Michelle heard that Sophie and I were still several hundred dollars short of our goal to finish Sophie's chemotherapy. So she went back to the board of directors at RCF, and they agreed to donate a whopping $1000 to Sophie's oncology bills! You might imagine there were some tears that day, and you would be right. In fact I'm tearing up again just thinking about that phone call. This incredible gift means we can discontinue our very successful ChipIn campaign, which has brought so many loving people, generous of heart and soul, into our lives. It means I can focus on standing by Sophie's side, focused 100% on her health, through the end of treatment without worrying about the cost. You all know how much that means.

But wait, there's more! I'll need to provide a little background now.

When I became acquainted with Kristie Sullens and
Save-An-Angel just a few weeks ago, Kristie and I had a long talk about her dog, Angel, who is one of the few canine recipients of a bone marrow transplant and has been cancer-free for ten months. (It's an incredible story, and if you aren't yet familiar with Save-An-Angel, click on over as soon as you can.) I would be remiss in not exploring this option for Sophie, but the cost of treatment (about $16,000) seemed daunting, not to mention the emotional stress of the travel and recovery time involved for the procedure, which would be performed in North Carolina. Long story short, I decided it was not a wise option for Sophie and me, despite Kristie's insistance that she would help us every step of the way—you can read about the Save-An-Angel "BMT Pack" on their website.

After speaking with our oncologist, I arrived at what I considered to be a compromise that I could live with: Radiation. The treatment is referred to as "half-body radiation," and it takes place over the course of two treatments about one week apart. There is some setup involved and some anesthesia, as well as a strong dose of chemo. The side effects and recovery time can vary depending on the animal, and the cost is about $5,000.

Dr. Oberthaler and I feel that Sophie is a good candidate, especially as she has tolerated chemotherapy quite well. She is quite a sturdy dog for an eight year-old cancer patient! And with the momentum that YOU have helped us acquire, I don't want to give up now. I know we can raise the funds needed for radiation, and when we do, this treatment could give Sophie as much as two more years of quality life. That's long enough for her to finally see the ocean, to go on vacation with her mom, and maybe even find an affordable NYC apartment with a coveted backyard. The sky's the limit :)

There is some new business to attend to with this new goal. For instance, we want people to be able to donate through a non-profit organization, so I will be posting new information to the Ways To Help
page of as soon as I am able. We also have a new Facebook page for the campaign, and Facebook users will soon be able to contribute via the popular "Causes" application on Facebook. We are so legit!

In medical news, Sophie and I were BOTH sick a couple of weeks ago. Sophie suffered the affects of toxicity from her last dose of adriamycin, and it cost us a visit to the hospital. I was able to bring her home that evening after receiving some fluids and medication for nausea. It would still be a few days before she was back to eating normally and feeling good, and in the meantime, I was weathering a nasty cold. It wasn't the best of circumstances, but we both benefitted from the extra rest and time together, and now we're feeling great. Sophie is back to her normal shenanigans, soared through her subsequent chemo appointment with flying colors, and I was able to complete three more races.

For those of you who are following the "Dancing Dog" part of this campaign, wherein I run races in a dog costume with a tutu to raise awareness about Sophie (and let's face it, have a really great time in the process), that makes 42.6 "tutu" miles to date. WHOAH.

You are now up to date! Please do continue to follow our campaign on the website,
, and our new Facebook page. We'll still continue to write blog entries and post videos to the Blog & Videos page, so there will always be something new to share.



Jenny & Sophie

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Very Busy Week For Dare2Care

Dear fans of Sophie,

What a week we've had for the Dare2Care4Sophie campaign! I have been enjoying putting together short videos to give you all a more personal look at our fundraising actitivites. I still have some editing to do, but in the meantime, I don't want to keep you waiting on our latest updates! So here goes:

Last weekend, I ran a 5K race in Brooklyn's Prospect Park in full costume to represent Sophie's cause. I'd been gathering the materials (and courage) to make my first appearance as the "Dancing Dog" character, and I could not think of more appropriate debut than among the supportive running community. I met a woman named Valerie who shared her own heartache of losing a dog to lymphoma. I also gave out a few cards for the website, and one of my favorite running buddies, Heather, was there to support me. It was a blast! You can view my video of the day on the Blog & Videos tab of our website, or the Dare2Care4Sophie YouTube channel.

As you know, Monday was Valentine's Day. It was also Sophie's six-year adopt-a-versary! In addition to being a special day to commemorate our six years together, Monday was also the day to perform my first official dare - to wear the bright pink wig from Dr. Oberthaler the entire day. I really enjoyed wearing it, drawing attention to Sophie's story, and of course, receiving quite a few compliments! I took photos and video that day as well, and the new video will be live on our site and YouTube channel shortly.

(As a reminder, I am 100% willing to dye my hair that shade of pink in exchange for a donation! DARE me!)

While the dare was "part one" of Valentine's Day, part two was much more challenging. I put on my costume, grabbed my boombox and headed down to Madison Square Garden, where the 2011 Westminster Kennel Club All Breed Dog Show was in town. Earlier that day, I was fortunate to score a complimentary day pass for Tuesday's events (thank you, Jenny & Melissa from Atlanta!). So on Monday night, I wanted to take advantage of the many dog lovers in town and shake my tutu for donations. The evening was both exhausting and cathartic, and I made almost $50! I can't wait to show you all that video, as well.

As hard as it was to drag myself out of bed the next morning, I didn't want my Westminster ticket to go to waste. So off I went to the Garden, decked out in full costume with a stack of cards for the website, to do some networking. I had a lovely interaction with a fellow named Robert who works for Classwish, who are partnering with Fido Friendly magazine on a very special contest to benefit educators and dogs. What a combo! Read about the sweepstakes here. I was also interviewed on camera by Inside Edition! That was pretty exciting, and a lot of folks requested to have their photos taken with me in my costume. I had so many warm interactions with all kinds of people...not to mention THE AMAZING DOGS! I had only a couple of hours to spend before heading into work, but the time was well worth it. I will publish a slideshow of photos very soon.

So after spending a few nights at home with Sophie, I took a look at my weekend race calendar and came across a trail race in Staten Island called the Cold Feat 10K, organized by the New York Adventure Racing Association. On a whim, I decided to write to them about Sophie's cause, asking if they might consider giving me a break on the $30 entry fee. They said yes! And before I knew it, I was signed up for a 10K on Saturday and a 10-mile race on Sunday, for which I'd previously registered. It's going to be a crazy weekend.

Other than that, I have just been trying to take advantage of the warmer weather here in NYC, which is having a very uplifting effect on Sophie. During our walks this week, she has shown an exuberance toward other dogs that I have not seen in awhile. Her skin issues are stable at the moment and to me, she looks as beautiful as ever. Our next chemotherapy appointment is on Wednesday, and thanks to all of our new donors, we can afford it.

Wish me luck with my races, and have a great weekend, everyone!


Jenny & Sophie

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jenny's First DARE & Fundraising Updates!

For those of you who are unaware of the significance of the "Dare" part of Sophie's website,, I am putting a request out to the universe for people to challenge me to do the silliest, wackiest, weirdest thing they can think of, determine what it's worth to them, and make a donation in that amount (upon completion of said dare, of course).

Well, yesterday I received my first official DARE! It came from none other than our oncologist, Dr. Karen Oberthaler of
NYC Veterinary Specialists. Dr. O and I were having a consultation yesterday about bone marrow transplants (thank you, Kristie Sullens and Save An Angel for opening my eyes to this possiblility). After our chat, Dr. O said she had something for me and pulled out a shopping bag. She told me she'd seen our website and that she had a dare for me! So what was in the shopping bag, you ask? It's a BRIGHT pink wig and I have been dared to wear it all day long this Valentine's Day (Monday), post photographic evidence to our website, and in return I will receive FREE pre-exams at each of Sophie's remaining chemo visits!! (Financial aspects of pet cancer care can be a sensitive issue among pet parents, so I will not post the exact monetary worth of this dare. But trust me, it is quite a significant impact!)

I never expected that Dr. O would take an interest in the website, as she has done so much for Sophie and me already. Part of our initial kick-off grant from
Frankie's Friends included personal contributions from her, in addition to taking the time to fill out paperwork for our other financial aid applications, not to mention the time she and her staff have taken to consult with me over these last few months. So you can imagine that I was very touched by her gesture. In fact I smiled all the way home, tried on the wig, and loved it! Monday's dare will be a cinch, so bring on your crazy dares, people!

In medical news, Sophie had her thirteenth dose of chemotherapy yesterday. This week's drug was vincristine, which always hits her a little hard. She takes it with an injection of cerenia, a strong anti-nausea medication, to counteract some problems she had with her first dose of the drug in October. She was tired last night and this morning, as can be expected.

Although I'm the leader of our "pack of two," it is times like these when I have to let Sophie take the lead, and trust her to show me when I'm asking too much of her. So when she stepped outside for a quick tinkle this morning and promptly took a u-turn back inside, I didn't push things. She is resting at home while I'm at work, and will really enjoy the pampering she'll receive when my roommates and I return home. I am fortunate to live within walking distance of where I work, so that anxious period between business time and Sophie time is blessedly kept to a minimum.

My last thing to share today is a celebration of the new support Sophie and I have received as a result of our relationships with
The Riedel & Cody Fund and Save-An-Angel. Thanks to their generous efforts to share our story with others, Sophie and I have received a total of $240 from 6 new contributors in less than five days. It is simply unbelievable to me that people we've never met can read our story, feel a connection and deem us worthy of their donations. We've also received an unexpected shout-out from Georgia's Legacy, a major resource of information and support for families dealing with cancer in their pets. I am in awe of what organizations like these have been able to achieve, and now Sophie and I are part of their amazing machine!

I was just confiding in a friend recently that the only person to whom I felt I could say "We're in this together" was my therapist. Now I feel I can say it to all of you.


Jenny & Sophie

Sunday, February 6, 2011

New Partnerships for Sophie

A lot has happened in the last few hours, folks! Last week, Sophie and I put in an application to The Riedel & Cody Fund. They weren't able to helps us with a grant, but their Executive Director Michelle Margo offered to help spread the word about Sophie's cause. Just this morning, she has already posted information about Sophie on their Facebook page, AND we have already received a donation of $100! Unbelievable!

What's more, Michelle has provided an introduction to Kristie Sullens and
Save-An-Angel. Kristie and her husband Johnny raised an amazing $16,000 on their own so that their dog Angel could have a bone marrow transplant. The operation saved Angel's life, and now they are paying it forward with Save-An-Angel. Kristie has graciously offered to feature Sophie on their website! Their story is so inspiring and I encourage you to visit their site.

Sophie and I are ever grateful to these two organizations for inviting us into their circle of love and support for families enduring the illness of a beloved pet. THANK YOU!

For the first time in several months, the weather is sunny and beautiful today in New York City. Sophie and I are heading out for a long jaunt in the sun to celebrate these new partnerships. Have a wonderful day!


Jenny & Sophie

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lots of Updates!

I just realized it has been quite some time since I left a new entry here. I share frequent updates about Sophie on my Facebook page, but there's not always enough space there, and I also don't want to oversaturate my FB friends. But I do have some important updates to share!

First, I have launched a website just for Sophie. You can find it at You can find photos, a short bio about Sophie and me, a list of our benefactors and of course a few ways that people can help. Most importantly, I encourage you to sign our guestbook and leave the most important gift of all: your words of love and support.

Second, a medical update: Sophie has graduated from weekly treatments to every two weeks. I am so happy to have reached this milestone, not only because it will minimize the stress on both of us involved with each treatment, but because it means we are over the hump.

It is all downhill from here, as they say. That being said, there have definitely been some pretty scary bumps on that hill. We had a few more visits when Sophie didn't pass her chemo pre-test due to low blood cell counts. The oncology team has reassured me that this is not uncommon, but every time it happened, my heart sank. Now that Sophie has two weeks to recover between treatments, this should no longer been an issue.

More importantly on the medical side, Sophie has developed some serious skin problems. She has always been a sensitive gal, her pretty pink skin a little itchy at times, but it was no longer manageable with Benadryl, so we made a few visits to our regular vet to check things out. Because of Sophie's depressed immune system, there are some things we just can't administer right now, such as steroids. So we are managing the symptoms with quite an arsenal: an antibiotic to stave off infection, a alternative antihistamine, preAs her mom, it does make me sad to see her looking a little patchy lately. She has a few spots that become inflamed, and when she scratches, the hair comes out and is slow to regrow due to the chemo. When I see her like that, I just have to take a deep breath and think of ALL of the amazing good stuff in our lives right now, like the time a few weeks ago that she had a blast at the dog run, or how sweet our roommates are with her, or just the fact that we've made it this far.

I'll end this update with something that is sure to make anyone laugh: just imagine me, wearing a dog costume and carrying a boom box, shaking my booty to disco music and collecting donations for Sophie all around New York City. That's how I will be spending my next few weekends, folks! I am summoning my college theater experience and being unashamed to make a fool of myself for something that really matters. Watch our website for dates and locations, and if you see me, send me your photos and videos!