Aug 15 2012

The C Word


I thought I was done writing this blog.  I thought my life had gone back to dull.  I thought no one would want to here more about my life.  This may so, but in case any one is still following this blog, I thought I should share some info with you about the creature this blog is named after, Mungo. 

A few months ago, Mungo was chasing his friend Sargon in the park.  He suddenly gave a yelp and lifted up his left hind leg.  I imagined that he had torn a ligament in his knee (cranial cruciate ligament injuries are very common in dogs).  An xray at the clinic the following day let me know that I was incorrect.  The xray showed a less dense area of bone, in the tibia (the shin bone).  Some further testing brought us to the diagnosis of osteosarcoma, or bone cancer.

Bone cancer is seen in large breed dogs, but usually the dogs are older than Mungo’s 4 years.  Well actually, sometimes we see it in very young large breed dogs.  So definitely unexpected but…Mungo has cancer. 

June was a pretty terrible time for us.  We came together as a family and decided what to do for the dog we love with all our hearts.  Trust me, it was a tough conversation to have with an 11 and a 13th year old kid. 

There are two “problems” with bone cancer.  Locally, the cancer causes pain in the bone it grows in, and it also weakens the bone, leading to fracture.  The cancer also spreads quickly to other parts of the body, especially lungs, etc. 

So, the first decision we had to make was what to do about the local cancer.  Traditionally, the answer has been to amputate the leg .  We just couldn’t bring ourselves to do this.  Even though dogs do quite well on three legs and the back leg is a lot easier to “lose” than the front leg, we just couldn’t.  Mungo is so incredibly active, that we just thought it would be “too much”.  Instead we opted to do radiation treatments.  The type of radiation that is done is intense and very focal.  Mungo had three treatments, three days in a row.  The intention of this type of treatment is to kill any cancer cells that are present. 

That took care of the local disease.  He is getting rounds of chemotherapy once monthly as well and hopefully this will take care of any cancer cells that are elsewhere in the body.  He is doing very well with these treatments.  He likes to be fed canned food for a day or two after his chemo treatments, but then he goes right back to his kibble.  Dogs don’t lose their hair, they generally handle chemo very well.

So now we are two months into his treatments and he is doing fairly well.  In case you are wondering, he is the same old Mungo.  He is goofy, still loves cheese more than life itself and still moves pretty darn fast, except he mostly does it on three legs. 

Even though we started his treatments within weeks of the diagnosis, the cancer still did a number on his bone.  This is a picture of Mungo’s knee last week.  Even though you are not vets, I am sure you can all see a BIG chunk of bone missing on the  lower bone in this picture (the piece of bone closest to the “L” marker). 


Mungo finds it a lot easier to hop around on three legs, than put his left leg down and put weight on this crazy bone.  As a result, his left hind leg has lost a lot of the muscle mass and it is pretty skinny.  The problem is this, if he does not use this leg, the bone will not grow back.  Weight is necessary for the body to be kicked into depositing new bone, so we have to encourage him to use it as much as possible.  He has figured out that if he wants a treat he should put his leg down.  Smart dog.  We also have him using the treadmill and training nightly.  Hopefully, we will be able to build up the bone from now on. 

Despite his illness, he remains very happy.  We took him to the Ghost last weekend and he ran around like a maniac, the same as he always has. 



He had a great day.  He was a bit sore the next day, but I am sure in his little head, it was worth it.  See how happy he looks?P1040867

Cancer, bah, I got this!

Dec 4 2011

Race Season Begins


I know I have not written in this blog for a VERY long time.  Sometimes life gets busy, sometimes it gets boring, and recently, it has been both!!  Lately my life has been work, work, work and as the famous saying goes, “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy!”  You folks didn’t need to read about that. 

This weekend, things got a little more exciting.  The ski season started up again.  Sara actually raced last weekend in Golden, but when you are only skiing in a field of three people, it also is not headline news.  This weekend we were in Canmore and it was a crazy weekend.  Sara was skiing in the Alberta Cup series.  She participated in a sprint on Saturday and a distance race on Sunday.  Sean was also in two races this weekend and also in Canmore.  He raced a sprint on Saturday and a pursuit on Sunday.  Don’t worry is this is all Greek to you, I will do my best to explain it all.

First I will explain Sara’s races.  In a sprint race, you race a very short distance, in Sara’s case only 500m.  Usually sprint racers use a “skate technique”.


At the beginning of the day, racers race a qualifying heat, where they race individually against the clock.  This seeds the racers, so that the can be sorted into various heats.  You then race in groups of 4-6 racers, and the top two finishers of each heat move on to the next race.  The idea behind a sprint race, is to finally race the fastest skiers against each other in the final heat.  Sara made it to the last heat, meaning she would finish in at least 6th place.  Now let me take a moment to set the scene for you.  Sara skis for Foothills Nordic, and as a Foothills skier, she stuck out like a sore thumb in a crowd of Canmore Nordic skiers.  The Canmore girls are a powerful team and they have dominated Sara’s age group for YEARS.  So the finals was comprised of 5 Canmore girls, one Foothills girl.  Even though the course was short, it was technical.  The course started out on flat ground, then the skiers would make a tight turn(test your turn technique), work up a steep hill (test you strength), tuck down a downhill(test you ski speed-thanks waxing team), then pull another hairpin and skate like crazy to the finish.  The first time, Sara had a false start, maybe she was overanxious.  The start official had a few words with her and I think it worried her a bit, because when the race started again, Sara did not jump out in front, in fact she was dead last.  As they manoeuvred around the first corner, she had made up one spot and was racing in fifth.  Then came the hill, and here, powerful Sara made up another 2 spots.  On the downhill, she kept her speed and maybe even gained a bit on the leaders due to her fast skis, and on the final corner, she managed to sneak ahead one more spot.  With a powerful finish, she pulled off a second place!!  Yippee Sara!!  She was only beat by Molly Jane Strum. 


Molly Jane an Sara have a VERY long history (as long a history as a 13 year old skier  can have).  The very first race that Sara participated in at the age of 5, she won a bronze medal and the winner of that race was Molly Jane Strum.  Molly Jane is a fabulous skier, and a really nice kid too (also, she and Sara were born on the exact same day!!).  She used to ski for Foothills Nordic, but now skis for Canmore.  To my knowledge, Molly Jane has only placed second in two races in her career, and Sara has NEVER placed ahead of Molly. 

This afternoon, Sara raced in a distance race.  This race was in “classic” style, and was a total distance of 2 km.  I know it doesn’t seem very far, but you have to realize that half of that distance was up a very steep hill, the other half was down.  This race was an individual start, meaning each racer skis the course by themselves and racers start at 30 second intervals (every 30 seconds, another racer starts the course), so it is a race against the clock.  You can see racers ahead of you and behind you so you try to chase down those in front of you and not let those behind you pass, but until all the racers finish, you do not know who has won.  When the results were posted, it was Sara in first, Molly Jane in second and another Canmore skier in third.  What a fabulous job!! 


Sara has been training 6 days a week since the summer and we were very curious to see where all that training would put her once the race season got under way.  I guess we can now safely say that all that hard work has paid off!  Also, the race today served as a qualifying race for the Alberta Winter Games, which will take place in February this year.  The first and second place finishers from each Zone (Calgary is Zone 3) get to go to the games, so Sara handily qualified!

Now on to Sean’s weekend.  Sean raced a sprint on Saturday.  Sprint races in biathlon are a little different than a cross country sprint race.  In a biathlon sprint, for Sean’s age group, skiers race a total distance of 3 km.  They ski one km, then shoot a series of five targets, ski another km, shoot another series of 5, then hurry on the last km to the finish.  Sean is shooting air rifles, but he is now shooting on small targets.  Let me tell you about small targets.  Kevin and I have recently started a series of biathlon classes.  We too shoot air rifles, and we too have to shoot on the same targets as Sean.  Big targets are about 3 cm in diameter and you shoot at them from about 10 metres away.  Small targets are roughly 1 cm in diameter and are also shot at from 10 metres away.  Now ski good and fast, get your heart pounding and then see if you can shoot at a 1 cm target….sound fun?  It is very difficult!!!  Sean has NEVER shot clean, on small targets, in a race situation before.  In fact, he told me today, that he has never even shot clean, in a practice, with an elevated heart rate.

Sean finished sixth in his race, second from Zone 3 AND he shot clean both rounds!!!  Amazing!!!  Because Saturdays race was the qualifier for the Alberta Winter Games, Sean qualified and will be participating. 

The second race that Sean raced in was what is called a pursuit.  In a pursuit race, the way you finish in the sprint, is the racing order in the pursuit.  The guy who finished first starts first, the guy who finished second, starts second, etc.  The pursuit race was 4 km long, with three shooting bouts.  Sean had a few difficulties with this race.  He had some trouble getting enough air in on some of the hills, so his ski time suffered, but he shot clean two out of the three visits to the range.  I actually am not even sure how he finished, we left before the results were posted.  He didn’t medal, and he was too tired to wait for results and medals.  I was perfectly happy to get an earlier start for home. 

So all in all, I would say the McLean kids had a great weekend, both qualified for the Alberta Winter Games and achieved new heights in their training.  Way to go kiddos!!

Oct 12 2011

Jeeper Creepers


I’m not a real “girly-girl”.  I do wear dresses, but most days I don’t wear a stitch of make-up.  I have short hair, but even when my hair was long, I never spent more than 5 minutes on it in the morning.  I think life is too short to spend time primping and such.  Also, I was never very good at things like hair and makeup.  My sisters were always sporting spectacular hairdos and impeccable makeup and I never quite measured up. 

As I look at my two dogs, I am reminded of my situation.  Sargon is my “sisters”.  Check out these peepers. 

P1040608 P1040603

Note the PERFECT application of eyeliner.  The line is clear, follows the contours of the eye precisely and makes the eye look simply magnificent!

Sadly, Mungo has my skills as a makeup artist.  P1040601P1040609

Kind of get the color in the right area, but mostly just smudge it around.  It is not clear, does not follow the contours of the eye precisely, making the eye look less than magnificent.   

Sorry Mungo.  Some of us are destined to be super models, and some of us, well, we just walk around at parties looking like cheap whores.  Sigh.

Oct 10 2011

Tom Sawyer


I love where I live for many reasons.  I like the central location, the proximity to the river, etc.  One of my favourite things about my neighbourhood is the number of large mature trees.  My yard has two huge green ash trees along the boulevard and a mountain ash in the front yard.  The backyard is home to two apple trees, an apricot tree and an ornamental crab apple tree.  Although I love these trees, they certainly contribute to the fall “work” as they drop oodles of leaves to the ground. 

I usually end up raking the leaves in three shifts.  One of the green ash trees drops it’s leaves at least 2 weeks before it’s friend, and the backyard trees drop their leaves another 2 or 3 weeks later. 

Today it was time to do raking number one, in the front yard.  It is a big job and I usually fill at least 7-8 bags for composting.  Also, I usually end up doing this chore on my own.  The kids sometimes help a bit, but they only have interest in it as long as it takes to build a big enough pile to jump in.  They then spend their time jumping and I continue to rake and bag.  This year the interest in leaf jumping was short (only 20 minutes or so).  Sigh…they are growing up.  I did however manage to keep at least on child’s interest for the whole clean up.  Enter the TORO leaf blower/vac!  I was originally going to use the blower to move the leaves that sat on the gravel under the trees, but then Sean got a look at this new toy.  He decided leaf vacuuming was just the job for a 10 year old boy and away he went.


The blower is noisy, but it shreds the leaves, in addition to sucking them up, so we ended up with only 5 bags of leaves (so far!).  I must say, I felt a little like Tom Sawyer, as I mostly sat on the deck and watched my boy do my work for me.  I would only spring into action when the catch bag needed emptying.  What could I do?…he certainly was having fun!P1040599

Boys and their toys!

Oct 3 2011

Super Camp


I was too pooped from our weekend to write about it last night.  Actually we were all too pooped.  We were so tired, that we all hit the sack at 9 pm. 

This weekend we attended the “Super Camp”.  This was a camp put on by our ski club, Foothills Nordic, and was attended by skiers from ages 9 to 20ish, and their families.  The camp was held in Kananaskis country, at the Lower Kananaskis Lake Group Site.  That’s correct, we were camping. 

Kevin and the kids headed out on Friday after school.  I was not able to leave town until after work on Saturday.  The different training groups had activities planned for them all weekend. Sara is now in the high performance training group and she had to work awfully hard this weekend.  On Saturday morning, she skied 30 km, on roller skis.  The route…from the campground up the Highwood Pass.  The Highwood Pass is the highest paved road in Canada, and tops out at 2206m.  They skied for almost 4 hours.  That was only the morning workout.  In the afternoon, she went for a “short” 45 minute run…uphill!!  Poor girl.  She was pretty tired after that.  Sean spent the morning on a scavenger hunt.  In the afternoon, he played a game in the forest, with his group. 

Sunday, Sara was still exhausted, so her coaches decided she should join the younger training groups and the adults for a family hike.  We hiked to Fox Lake and back, a three hour hike.  It was a nice hike and the fall forest looked and smelled fabulous!  I am sorry that I don’t have any pictures of the hike, you will just have to take my word for it!

The dogs came along with us and joined us for the hike and a few other walks.  Kevin came to pick the dogs and I up on Saturday, and shortly after we arrived, Kevin and I took the hounds out for a walk along the lake.  Officially, dogs are supposed to stay on leash in provincial parks, but there were very few other people out there this weekend and once we were part way around the lake, Kevin and I decided to let the boys off leash for a little lake shore exploration.  There was much to smell and the dogs had a great old time running back and forth along the banks.  We had reached a position where the lake narrowed and the opposite shore was only about 15 feet away.  The water was deep but there was a fair amount of grass growing up from the lake bottom.  I am not sure what Sargon saw, but all of a sudden he took a flying leap into the water.  It seemed like he thought the water was not very deep.  Perhaps he thought he could hit the bottom and spring across.  THAT did NOT happen.  He  just sunk like a stone, head and all.  SPLOOOSH!!!!  He came up sputtering and splashing and swam to shore!  As he shook himself off he seemed to be thinking, “There that was fun…no harm done.”  What he failed to realize was that he was now soaking wet and it was about 5 degrees outside!  Some dogs can handle this, but ridgebacks don’t even have a double coat, and in no time at all he was DARN COLD!

We ended up sacrificing a blanket to dry the hound off as best as possible and he spent the rest of the afternoon drying off in the car.  Luckily, it doesn’t take long to dry a short coated hound! 

All in all it was an exciting weekend.  I think we will need the whole week to recuperate!!