Sunday, January 14, 2024

Lessons Learned From my Dog’s Lymphoma Journey

 Every experience is surely different in terms of timing and things that help, but just in case it could be useful for even one person going through the process of a dog with lymphoma, here are some things I found that helped and some details on the timeline for our dog Buddy.

Disclaimer : This post just details my experience and understanding. Obviously you should consult with your vet and other sources of information when making any medical decisions for your dog.

Early Symptoms and Diagnosis

It took us a while to find out that Buddy had lymphoma. We initially took him to the vet for diarrhea. While there the vet noted hard swollen lymph nodes and said they could be from a minor illness or from something more serious and that we should keep an eye on them. The diarrhea resolved quickly with medication and he seemed pretty normal, but as weeks went by we noticed he wasn’t as peppy or cuddly and wasn’t as excited about eating. We took him back about a month later and his lymph nodes were still hard and swollen. They were pretty sure he had lymphoma and ran a test that verified it. Around this time he also became less interested in soft beds or bedding with heated pads/blankets and spent more time on the harder/cooler surfaces like carpet, rugs, and the hard floor.


After being presented the various options, we chose not to do chemo since our dog was 12 years old. Starting on a lower dose of prednisone seemed like a good balance of relieving symptoms of lymphoma and buying a little time while keeping side-effects of the medication down. Higher amounts of prednisone can often help dogs go into remission for a period of time (months?), but can also make your dog pant a lot at night or need to pee a lot more frequently (including in the middle of the night). My understanding is that chemo helps a large portion of dogs live many months or a year or two longer but rarely fully cures them. It is pretty pricey, but dogs typically handle it with lower side effects than humans.


Buddy lived for 3 months after that initial appointment for diarrhea and for two months after the official diagnosis and start of prednisone. After starting the medication, his appetite improved and he seemed more comfortable. There seemed to be a daily cycle of best appetite and energy in the afternoon and most discomfort and poor appetite late at night and early morning.

While many days it seemed like he was feeling or doing better, one thing that never stopped was the weight loss and muscle loss. Watching this and gradually feeling more bone along his back and hips was one of the hardest parts of the process. He also steadily became pickier and pickier in terms of what he would eat.

Things that helped

Another difficult and time-consuming aspect of dealing with Buddy’s lymphoma was trying to figure out ways to get him to feel better, eat more food, and take his medicine. Things that worked one day often didn’t work just a few days later.

Medication: For medications, pill pocket treats helped for a long time. You can also shove a pill in chunks of soft food, bread, or softer treats. Pill pockets helped with supplements too when those started being unappetizing to him as well (check with your vet on supplements since they may have interactions with lymphoma medications). I know there are a lot of conflicting opinions on it, and I thought it was probably snake oil before seeing it work for us, but I will just add here that CBD oil worked for Buddy many times before and also after his diagnosis to reduce pain and discomfort.

Food: Figuring out things Buddy would eat was often frustrating as it changed frequently. Rotating through things that work might help them work longer than repeating specific foods over and over. When Buddy stopped eating his kibble, adding wet food helped for a bit and varying the wet food flavor helped as well. He often seemed to prefer the kind that had chunks in gravy rather than the blended kind. At one point wet food on kibble stopped working and he was being picky even about pure wet food. I went to a local pet food store and they sent me home with food toppers that really helped. These tended to be ground up freeze dried meats. In particular rabbit hearts seemed to have lasting power being tasty and making other things tasty. Other things that he ate near the end when almost nothing else worked include: peanut or almond butter on toast, roasted or rotisserie turkey and chicken, and cooked salmon. Heating the chicken in a bit of water and mixing it all in with other food sometimes got him to eat the other food too. You can get some of these tasty things with lower salt or no preservatives to make them slightly less unhealthy if you prefer (but salt, fat, or nitrates may not be the biggest threat to your pet’s health at this point).

Mobility: I think we may have gotten lucky, but Buddy was able to go on long walks and use the bathroom outside until just a few hours before he passed. One thing he wasn’t able to do the last few weeks was get onto beds, something he used to love doing in order to cuddle or look out the window. I spent a lot of time thinking about the right kind of ramp/stairs to get that would allow him to get up on beds, but I think I ended up making a poor decision since he never used the one I got (luckily it was good for kids to play on!). I got a foam based one with rounded stairs thinking it would be less intimidating and less slick than proper hard stairs. In retrospect, I think some more normal stairs, maybe a bit wide and not too steep would have been the better way to go. A wide collapsable ramp might have also worked, but would have been tricky to fit in our space.

Mourning before and after: One think that makes a cancer, and maybe particularly a lymphoma, diagnosis hard is that you find out our your dog is very likely to pass away and that it will be a process that takes weeks or months or maybe a year or two if you do chemo rather than something that happens suddenly. This meant that in some ways we were mourning Buddy while he was still around able to play, go on walks, and eat regular food. I knew his passing would be hard on my, but I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would be and for how long. Reaching out to friends and family really helped, as did reading this Scientific American article on pet loss. After sharing on social media, it became clear that so many people in my life had gone through similarly difficult losses of pets and that it is normal to be really sad for days, weeks, months, etc. after the loss of a pet.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

What will Climate Change Mean for Outdoor Recreation in Arkansas?

Climate change will probably make poison ivy, ticks, and mosquito-borne illnesses worse in Arkansas while shortening the number of good floating, hiking, backpacking, and running days. Arkansas stands to benefit greatly from embracing technologies and agricultural/land-use practices that prevent carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere or help remove it. Now that I made sure you read that much, here is a more gradual introduction to this post:

Since I've published two Arkansas trail guidebooks and hundreds of posts on this site, hopefully you can tell that I'm passionate about the Natural State and about getting people outdoors to enjoy its incredible and diverse beauty. A lot of you might not know this, but I have a PhD in Environmental Dynamics, a MS in Environmental Engineering, and helped research parts of the NYT bestseller Drawdown which details the top 100 climate solutions.

Inspired by a recent tweet and this article, I decided to write a post on the impacts of climate change on outdoor recreation in Arkansas. I know lots of people who read this blog might not acknowledge the role human activities are playing in the rapidly changing climate, but I'm writing this anyways and hope if you are one of those people you'll read this and feel free to message me with questions. If you think I've gotten any details wrong, please let me know!

I'll start by saying, there is no doubt (in the scientific community) that humans are causing climate change and that the impacts of this are already being felt. Those changes are, and will be, felt most by the poorest and most vulnerable among us, but we will all be impacted.

While Arkansas is lucky and not likely to suffer the worst effects of climate change in the coming decades, you CAN expect your experience in the great outdoors to change in these not fun ways:

1. Poison ivy will get worse.
Scientists have shown that poison ivy and poison oak love a little extra CO2! Unfortunately for us, that means climate change is making these plants grow faster and larger!

This poison ivy loves climate change and wants to tell you all about it! Lean in closer!

2. The number of good floating days will decrease.
Climate change is bringing both longer dry spells and bigger floods to Arkansas (and many other places). This will likely mean more days when rivers are too low or too high to float!

This is the Buffalo River and its going to look like this more often.

3. Mosquito-borne illnesses will get worse.
New (to Arkansas) diseases will spread, while others that have been around will likely get worse. Think West Nile, Zika, dengue, etc. Good times.

4. Same with ticks!
This page has great info summarizing reports by Arkansas Game and Fish on the impacts of climate change in Arkansas, but in short, it isn't good. Ticks and the diseases they spread will get worse in Arkansas.

This tick says "Hi and thanks for the climate change!"

5. Summers will get hotter.
When I was born, Little Rock hit 90 degrees or more an average of 65 days a year. Now that happens 80 days a year. By 2060, 90+ degree days could be a reality for more than 100 days a year! Those are not good conditions for hiking, backpacking, or running! They might be nice for floating, but see #2 above.

You can find the stats for your hometown here.

For Fayetteville the numbers are:
90+ degree days per year:
When I was born: 42
Now: 51
By 2060: 76

What you can do:
Ok, so hopefully you are convinced that climate change due to human emissions of greenhouse gases is not going to be great for outdoor recreation in Arkansas. Luckily there are lots of ways you can get involved in addressing this issue.

As an agricultural state, Arkansas can do a lot to pull carbon dioxide out of the air and into our vegetation and soil. Landowners could even get paid for doing so if we supported policies to make that happen. In fact, some Arkansas farmers are already making money from California's climate-related policies!

If you want to get involved locally, check out these organizations and the references and resources below.

Arkansas Chapter of the Sierra Club
The Arkansas Citizens' Climate Lobby
Audubon Arkansas
Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light

References and Resources:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Carrizo Plain National Monument - 2017 Superbloom

Carrizo Plain National Monument Superbloom 2017 - South of Soda Lake - Best Dog Ever Buddy Wisely Chamberlin
Carrizo Plain Superbloom 2017 - South of Soda Lake

All the rain California got this winter will have many positive impacts on the state this year. Snowpack and reservoirs are much higher than average and way higher than recent years meaning better skiing, more drinking water, more water for agriculture and wildlife, and more hydropower.

It also means SUPERBLOOMS in the desert! I wanted to see one of these superblooms after reading about the ones last year in Death Valley and a coworker recommended Carrizo Plain National Monument, which happens to be a couple hours less driving for folks living in the Bay Area.

This website has some maps and other information on the monument. Once you get there information, water, and garbage cans can be difficult to come by, so bring gallons of water and be prepared to pack out your trash!

The two developed campgrounds are beautiful, have great views, and interesting features to explore nearby. In my opinion, Selby Campground is a bit more scenic and interesting. You can also camp anywhere in large sections of the monument (generally in the higher elevations).

Most of the land here is BLM land, which gives you more freedom than typically found on National Park Service lands, but fewer amenities/services. We loved being able hike with our dog and even let him off in places. We didn't like struggling to get accurate information on water and other important topics.

I think we got there a big early for the superbloom, but we still saw a ton of yellow, orange, purple, and blue flowers. I think we'll try again in a year or two and either camp at Selby or backpack into the hills a bit.

Have you been? What do you do? Where did you stay? Let me know in the comments!

Hill above KCL Campground - Carrizo Plain National Monument 2017 Superbloom

Monday, January 2, 2017

Congratulations to 2016's Iron Rangers! Get ready for 2017!

This is a guest post by John Chamberlin (3 Johns have now contributed material to this blog!). It details how he and his grandchildren completed the 2016 Iron Ranger Challenge. Did you attempt the challenge? Think you'll try in 2017? Read on for ideas on park and trail types you might not have considered like underground trails or walking around famous high schools!

2016 Iron Ranger - By John G Chamberlin

At the end of 2015 I became aware that the National Park Service in Arkansas was doing something special to celebrate the 100th year of NPS. If you hiked, paddled or biked 100 miles in the public lands of Arkansas, and submitted monthly email reports on your efforts, you would get an Iron Ranger award. That did not sound too hard. We have a place in Gilbert on the Buffalo National River and get up there most weeks. I could float Tyler to Gilbert 17 times, or hike the Railroad Trail each week. Or maybe do a three day, 30 mile float. 
 "2016 would be my 70th year and since I did a 50 mile trek at Philmont my 50th year, the Iron Ranger seemed like a great thing to do".


For the first trip to Gilbert in January, I hiked The Old Railroad Trail. The view of the river was great, that special green of flowing water visible from most of the trail because the leaves were off. I hiked past the site of the missing trestle and came back, 3 miles down in under two hours.

Next trip to the Buffalo I thought I would hike some of the Tyler Bend trails. The temperature was in the teens and I did not dress for that. I parked by the Collier Homestead and headed out on the Buffalo River Trail toward the highway. Lots of amazing frost and ice configurations in the dirt and leaves of the trail. Very cold body. I made it a little over a mile that day before freezing out. Lots of days left in the year.

February it mostly rained. The Buffalo River came up over the park toilet at Gilbert and flooded the start of the trail. No time to be paddling or hiking. I did roam around by car and took short walks to see the river almost reach the highway 65 bridge and see the fields at Shine Eye as a lake with a current.


On to March and Spring Break spent at Gilbert with my wife Shannon, our daughter Katharyn and our grandchildren, Lorelai and Griffin. I had gotten a small raft for Christmas and on Wednesday the 23rd we tried it out, floating from Tyler to Gilbert. The water was cold, but clear, and we saw our usual herons and other birds. On Thursday, Lorelai and Griffin hiked with me on the Horse Trail north of the Buffalo. The trail runs along the bluffs across from Tyler Bend and we had new views of the river and campsites from above. We turned around when the trail dipped down toward Mill Creek. Lorelai thought a meadow we crossed would be a great camping place. Two days later, on Saturday the 26th, we got the raft out again and floated Baker’s Ford to Tyler, wonderful water, and some of the early flowering plants made a show.

Somewhere on that trip I mentioned I now had 17 miles of my 100 for the Iron Ranger. Lorelai and Griffin said “How many do we have?”, well, they had 13 down, so 87 to go!

In early April we went to Gilbert with some friends. We got out the kayaks and floated Baker’s to Gilbert, another ten miles.

May was pretty busy with mentoring an Innovation Corps team and the first 20 days of June my daughter Mary and I were in Australia. I hiked some park miles there but they didn’t count! I brought back my niece Sarah from California on the return trip and we took her to Gilbert. Sarah had never floated a river, so we got out the raft and Katharyn, Lorelai, Griffin, Sarah and I did a short float, Tyler Bend to Shine Eye. Now the turtles were out on the logs and people were out on the gravel bars and in canoes. The real adventure was hauling the gear up the sand hill at Shine Eye.
 "Halfway through the year and 69 miles to go for me, 79 for Griffin and Lorelai...if they were serious".

Somewhere about that time they decided they were going for the 100 miles. Their mother, Katharyn, helped with that endeavor. They gained a couple miles on me with a river trail walk in July, and we three floated in kayaks from Grinder’s to Gilbert in late July. Somehow August got past us with no new miles.
Editor's Note: Summer is a tough time to hike (too hot, lots of poison ivy, & too many ticks and chiggers) or float (often not much water) across lots of Arkansas. Biking and swimming are great options though!


In September, Lorelai, Griffin and I did a full foliage walk on the Railroad trail at Gilbert, still late flowers – like asters – and berries on the bushes and vines. A week later we tried out the trails at Pinnacle Mountain State Park for a couple of miles.

Entering October we still had many miles to go 59 for me and 69 for Lorelai and Griffin. Could we make it? The grandkids gained two miles on me with a visit to the Central High National Historic site on Oct. 1.
Editor's Note: The best high school in the world! Class of '99 in particular was an impressive group

Little Rock Central High School. Photo by Katharyn Chamberlin Daniel‎ 

We all went to Gilbert and the grandkids and I floated the 6 miles from upper Tyler to Gilbert on the 2nd, a trio in kayaks. For the first time I was the last one to get to Gilbert. The leaves were changing color and the river was gorgeous.

Starting the Float. Buffalo National River. Photo by Katharyn Chamberlin Daniel‎ 

Katharyn organized some outings and Griffin and Lorelai logged 3 miles on the Trail of Tears in North Little Rock on Oct. 8th and another 3 at Central High NHS the same day. They did two more miles on the 9th on the Heritage Trail around Mount Holly Cemetery.
"Wow, they were catching up to me!"
We had a long weekend in mid-October. It rained before we went and the river was up enough we got the raft out and on the 15th Katharyn, Joe, Griffin, Lorelai and I floated the 12 miles from Woolum to Baker’s Ford. We paddled over the Bend Creek bar where I camped on the dry river almost exactly a year before. We had the river mostly to ourselves, had some fast riffles but we had to get out and push the raft over a few low spots. It was a long day and lots of hard boiled eggs were consumed. The next day Griffin, Lorelai and I floated from Grinders Ferry to Gilbert and then hiked two miles on the Railroad trail. The kids now had 69 miles and somehow I was lagging with 66 miles!

That night a couple from Wisconsin came to our door after dark. They had rented a cabin and had arrived after the store was closed. We helped them track down the guy with their key. They wanted to float but the man was not sure he could handle a kayak or canoe. His wife was an active paddler. So the next morning I got out the raft and floated with them from Grinders to Gilbert. The grandkids stayed at the house and now I was ahead with 71 miles. The remaining 29 and 31 miles seemed possible, especially if the river stayed up! As Griffin said “Miles paddling are faster and easier than hiking.”

I did not stay in the lead in miles long. On Oct. 30 we had Johnnie in town and we did a short but symbolic hike up Flatside Pinnacle. Griffin and Lorelai did an extra mile on the Ouachita Trail. This is where we did our first hike with Katharyn, when she was two, and where we had many outings in the '70s and '80s, including my encounter with the two bear cubs, that figure in the name of our house in Gilbert, “Saw Two Bears Den”. Katharyn, Griffin and Lorelai went to Toltec Mounds State Park and hiked four miles to retake the mileage lead for good. I picked up two miles at Gilbert on Nov. 13th.
The Team on Flatside Pinnacle
Flatside Pinnacle. Photo by Katharyn Chamberlin Daniel‎ 
Thanksgiving week saw us back in Gilbert, with too little water for floating and some of the trails out of play due to deer season. Before Shannon and I went up, Katharyn, Griffin and Lorelai put in 4 miles of hiking at the Ozark Folk Center State Park and Blanchard Springs in the Ozark National Forest.
Some of these miles were hundreds of feet underground by the light of headlamps as part of a new type of tour Blanchard Springs Caverns is offering!
Here are some additional details on the cave miles provided by Lorelai and Griffin:
"Because there were no lights in there, we got to see a bunch of animals that lived there. We saw cave crickets, a big spider, and a lot of bats. Some even flew over our heads! I also liked seeing the ghost room. The calcite ghosts looked really cool". - Griffin
"We got to do a special cave tour with headlights. This meant we got to experience a less crowded, more personal tour that showed more of an original cave, without modern spotlights, and steel stairs everywhere. Having headlights instead of spotlights also meant we could go to places where the wildlife was not used to spotlights, and avoided, so we got to see a lot of wildlife. There were two tunnels where there were a lot of bats. One, we stood right at the entrance, and they flew really close to us! We also saw cave salamanders and crickets and other cave insects". - Lorelai
Salamander. Photo by ‎Katharyn Chamberlin Daniel‎ 
Then it was time for serious hikes around the Tyler Bend area, with Katharyn, Joe, Lorelai, Griffin and me. On the 20th we parked near the Highway 65 bridge, hiked across it, found our way down to the stream that the Buffalo River Trail follows, and hiked up past beautiful pools with limestone and green-tinted water. The trail went up the hill and we turned onto the Rockwall Trail, following it down to the visitor center at Tyler Bend. We encountered seven deer along the way, and no hikers. After a stop at the Visitor’s Center we hiked back – total 5 miles.

On the 21st we were back at Tyler Bend to hike the Riverview and Spring Hollow trails as a loop. We got great views of the Buffalo going up the Riverview Trail (duh!) and the kids found a big cedar to climb that grew out of the bluff. It was fairly scary to watch them. Coming into the park that day we passed a van labeled “Texas A&M Galveston”, the only other vehicle we saw en route to the trailhead. As we came from the Riverview Trail past the Collier Homestead, we saw people leaving the homestead. They all had pants with muddy seats and we caught up to them as they were reentering that van – bio-speleologists doing inventories in the cave in the park. Lorelai led the way down the BRT to the Spring Hollow junction. The trails were covered with leaves and difficult to follow. We saw interesting moss and lichen on stones and dead limbs on the ground.

On the 22nd we finished up most of the remaining Tyler Bend Trails, repeating a bit on the BRT and then following the Buckridge trail down to the Spring Hollow, where we split and Joe, Lorelai and Griffin headed to the Visitor Center while Katharyn and I climbed the trail back to the car. Again, we were the only people on the trail – holiday weekend, great weather and really nice trails all to ourselves. Twelve miles of hiking over three days and I had 14 left and the grandkids were ahead of me with only 11 left!


T’was the week before Christmas and we hit the trails at Two Rivers Park (county property) and the Arkansas River Trail. On the 21st of December, we crossed the bridge to Two Rivers and the grandkids did 4 miles each and played on trees at either end of the hike to let me do an extra mile. Lorelai picked up a stick and pushed it ahead of her on the paved trail. She managed to collect a mound of pine needles three feet wide and a foot high. After we returned to the car, I had 9 miles left and they had 7 to go. We came back the next day with Katharyn and hiked from Two Rivers Bridge to the Big Dam Bridge, back to the Two Rivers Bridge and across it to the climbing trees. Lorelai and I did extra distance over the Big Dam Bridge and Griffin and I did a loop at Two Rivers so he could get even with Lorelai. He swept a mile of trail clear of pine needles with his pushing stick and made several piles beside the trail. I went home and the kids went back over the bridge again and looped for an extra mile, so we all did six that day. Three more for me and one more for Lorelai and Griffin to get to that 100 miles mark.
Iron Ranger Challenge completed!

100 miles down! Photo by Katharyn Chamberlin Daniel‎ 
Bonus Points:

On Dec. 29th we loaded the dogs in the car with Shannon, Griffin, Lorelai and me and headed to Gilbert to finish where we began. Gracie and Shelby accompanied us on the Railroad trail and we were joined by one of the Gilbert dogs, Toots (alias Indiana S’mores for his attitude and coloring). We did two miles out and back and I went on for another mile with Shelby while they went down to the Gilbert gravel bar. Technically we were done but the kids wanted a real finale. So we went back to the river and they laid out a circular path in the gravel and ran around it. Lorelai kept on until she had run a mile in celebration. Griffin took Gracie back to the house a bit earlier.

Final mileage totals: Lorelai 103, Griffin 102 and PopPop 101 on public lands in Arkansas in 2016. So we are all Iron Rangers and should get our patches in January! And now they say there will be another go at Iron Ranger in 2017! Katharyn says we need to get the miles in earlier in the year.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Pantoll to Stinson Beach Loop Via Matt Davis, Dipsea, and Steep Ravine Trails - Mount Tamalpais State Park, California

We recently did the popular Matt Davis, Steep Ravine loop connecting Pantoll Campground to Stinson Beach. We chose to start at Pantoll and take a food break at Stinson Beach, but it also makes sense to start at Stinson if you want to get the hard part out of the way first (and claim a coveted parking spot at the beach which become scarce after 11 most weekends).

The parking lot at Pantoll is located off of Panoramic Highway at Pantoll Rd. about 4.5 miles west of Mill Valley and 4 miles east of Stinson Beach. It costs $8 to park there, but there are other parking options nearby (if you dislike the idea of supporting the conservation of incredible natural resources for future generations).

Named after a man who helped build many of the trails in the area back in the 1910's & 1920's, the Matt Davis Trail is about 4.2 miles long and starts across the road from the Pantoll parking lot and kiosk. This route is longer than the way back but has a nicer grade for trail running. It starts out somewhat level for the first mile or two before heading downhill via numerous switchbacks into Stinson Beach. The views along the way are stunning as the hillside alternates between being grassy and wooded with the ocean in the background.

At Stinson Beach we hit the famous Siren Canteen on the beach for some great food (nachos) and drinks (options include a variety of shakes, mimosas, kombucha, beer, wine, etc).
After that we relaxed on the beach for a bit before starting back up the hill. Going back we took the Dipsea and Steep Ravine route which was shorter at about 3 miles, but steeper (including lots of steps and a 10' wooden ladder). The redwoods and low branching oaks along the later part of this trail give the area a magical feel.

For info on more hikes in the area, explore the labels on the left or click some of the links below:
North Bay Trails
California Trails 

Matt Davis Trail Heading Towards Stinson Beach