Sunday, August 1, 2010


I’ve just mopped up urine in the foyer for the second time this morning. Dusty containers of tile and grout sealer, unopened and mocking, sit just behind the hall closet door.

Now, on to clean the couch cushions. Even in his urgency, Murphy followed his ancient instincts to lift his hind leg, high and proud, like he still holds his noble head on days the medication doesn’t leave him stretched sideways seeking the cooling comfort of the marble floor. You have your dignity, boy, even in the moments I know the shame drapes your shoulders like an anchor chain.

“That’s normal,” the veterinarian had warned. The steroids will makes him want to drink more and that will make him go more often. “Even if he hasn’t had one in years, he might start having accidents,” she said.

I’m hoping that’s not the only part of her prognosis that is right.

* * *

Let’s rewind.

It’s a June morning. Murphy is violently rotating his head back and forth like the Things do when I have the audacity to place a vegetable that is not a raw sliced baby carrot on their plates.

“I thought Murphy was sleeping in your room last night?” I say, turning to Thing 1 over breakfast.

“He was,” she says, “but he started shaking his head and rubbing his face on the bed and all over the floor.”

“Better than scooting his butt all over your sleeping face ...”


“So you let him downstairs?”

“Yep,” she says. On cue, Murphy pushes the side of his snout across the rug, his rump up while his hind legs perform a spastic box waltz around the dining room table.

Later, Murphy rolls on his back, eyes closed and paws up. He’s telling me, as he does too often, to stop staring blankly at the computer screen and give affection where it will be handsomely returned.

My hand reaches for his barrel chest and I notice marbled black lines around his mouth. I get him to sit up so I can take a better look.

His fur is thinning out along the folds around his mouth, and in a subtle patchwork all around his nose and eyes.

* * *

sterile nodular pyogranuloma syndrome

Our vet has vainly scraped the lesions that have recently ballooned on Murphy’s head in six different spots, abrading them until his blood seeps out. Her microscopes and mystery machines have found nothing. She sends us, via the winding backcountry roads to the north, to a dog dermatologist over the state line.

This is the animal hospital to the stars. Glenn Close calls in with a question while I’m talking to the receptionist. “Oh, Chevy Chase, Joe Giradi, they all bring their pets here,” the woman tells me. “Luckily, they just usually send them in with a housekeeper or something or else there would be a commotion.”

I imagine Chevy Chase bumbling through the automatic doors. He stops, takes a hard look at Murphy, and his eyes bug. He looks at me and calmy says: “I'm gonna need some pliers, and a set of 30-weight ball bearings. It's all ball bearings nowadays.”

Instead, the docs do biopsies, leaving three Frankensteinian stitches on Murphy’s face and a foppish blue Victorian collar around his neck. He’s the picture of pathetic.

dog in victorian collar

And we wait.

A week later, I hang up my cell phone with a snap, then flip it back open and speed dial My Love.

“Hey, hun,” I say. “Looks like we have a daughter AND a dog with an autoimmune disease.”

* * *

You won’t find much on the Internet about sterile nodular pyogranuloma syndrome. From what we we’ve been told, it’s treatable if not curable. It just takes steroids plus time and patience in dealing with their side effects.

The scars are not overtly noticeable on Murphy’s face these days, six weeks since it all started, and his coat is a bit mottled but smoothing out. Missing fur notches the edges of his ears; it reminds me of the worn patches that decorated the ears of the stuffed rabbit I kept close to me at all hours as a little boy.

The neighborhood dogs he loved to romp with he barely acknowledges now; he’s either too tired or too embarrassed.

Yet there are a few flashes of his old self: chasing down a fly ball during my Wiffle ball games with Thing 2, following me every where I go in and out of the house, barking a good second before a stranger rings the front door.

Time and patience.

I’ll try to have the latter, dog, if you can promise me you will have the former.

+ + +


Our effort to win a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh Grant to pay for research to find a cure for juvenile myositis, the autoimmune disease Thing 1 has been battling for almost 8 years, isn’t over even though we didn’t win last month.

We finished 12th, high enough to qualify for a second go at the prize this month. After one day of voting we are fourth.


We need only to finish second to win the grant.

We –- me, My Love, the Things, even Murphy -- need vote every day this month. Go to the Make Juvenile Myositis a Memory application, click the "Vote for this Idea" then either vote by using your Facebook sign-in or creating a unique sign-in based on a valid e-mail address.

You can place a second vote every day by texting 100850 to
Pepsi (73774).

If Cure JM wins, every cent of that $250,000 funds research studies or pays the doctors and scientists who help children with juvenile myositis at "JM Centers of Excellence" the foundation has help set up in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Blog, Tweet, Facebook, grab a widget (like the one I have at the top right of my home page) -- every little bit helps to get the word out. And vote!

Here is the widget code:

<iframe src="!%21" width="250" height="255" scrolling='no' frameborder='0'></iframe>


  1. Holy shite, dude. That there is quite the statistical anomaly! I glad he seems on the mend, good luck with the mop.

    But wishing even better luck with the JM grant! THAT is truly awesome! I have voted! Push, push, push!

  2. I may be in love with Murphy. . . and why does that woman's Alcoholic treatment ad sit right over my comment? Do they know something I don't????

  3. Awww- sweet Murphy!! Hope he heals soon!
    Now I'm off to vote...

  4. Our two Pit Bulls are 16, which is about 6 years more than average for pure breads of their size, and about 14 years more than the dog fighters who abandoned them thought they would live. Dealing with them is a constant struggle. But they would do the same for me, you know?

  5. Murphy, I'm rooting for you! I'm sure you'll be healthy soon.
    Now, off to vote!

  6. Voting and rooting for Thing 1 and Murphy.

  7. Murphy looks like my lab which makes this story even more sad for me. I hope he fully recovers soon.

  8. I like to imagine Murphy just barked a good bark because he knows I just voted before coming here. I also like to imagine the bark sounded like it had a bit of a British accent behind it thanks to that collar.

  9. Sheit, when it rains it pours. Poor kid and poor dog. He looks a bit unhappy with the color. Did you try telling him that it brings out the blue in his eyes? Even if he doesn't have blue in his eyes, it may still work cause hey, what does he know? He's a dog.

    Will do the voting thing. I understand it's all the rage this year.

  10. Oh man, Cone of Shame. Poor guy.
    P.S. It's always a good day when you can gross out your own kids. ("Dad-eeeeee!!")

  11. That is a comfy looking one of those at least. They're always a hard, white plastic whenever I use them on myself.


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