About Luigi


  • Luigi
  • F1B Goldendoodle
  • 11 years old
  • Born: February 17, 2001
  • Right cervical mass plasma cell tumor (cancerous). A fine needle biopsy will be repeated to determine what type and stage of cancer it is, since the tumor is so vascular in nature removal and/or surgical wedge removal for a biopsy became impossible. Luigi began a bleed during surgery so they did a ligation and closed him up.

Owner Information:

  • Marcelle & Benjamin

Primary Veterinarian Information:

  • Full Name : Dr. Lisa G. Barber, DACVIM (oncology)
  • Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
  • 200 Westboro Road
  • North Grafton, MA.  01536-1895
  • Harrington Oncology Program / Kelly Reed is liaison
  • Telephone: 508-887-4682
  • Fax: 508-839-7951
  • E-mail: veterinaryoncology@tufts.edu


Notation on check - Luigi - Client #386121 

Luigi's Client Number is critical to be posted to correct account

either when calling with a credit card or mailing a check. Thank you.


UPDATE - April 18, 2013 


This is my last year as a teacher, as I am retiring in October 2013 after 35 incredible years. It is going by faster than I can keep track, and, I apologize for not being more "present" in the Zoo! But, it's all good...

We took Luigi for his ultrasound and liver enzyme panel today - one year ago yesterday he finished his 16 rounds of radiation! As soon as we entered the small animal clinic at Tuft's, at least 25-30 came running to us - screaming "Luigi"! (When I grow up, I hope I'm as popular as my dogs!)
Anyway, while waiting for his tests, we met too many pups going in to oncology - but, hopefully gave them some hope, that they're in very good hands. 

Luigi's ultrasound was as good as it can get! Everything looks the same, no new growths around his liver, etc. His liver enzyme levels were perfect, too! They said he acts like a 6 year old in spirit, which continues to be a good sign also!
I went to cash out after the applause - all for Luigi- and was more than pleasantly surprised by a beautiful monetary donation applied towards our bill! They made a copy of a fund raiser letter from last fall 2012 - I'm so sorry I didn't know about receiving this sooner, I would have thanked you all! What a blessing it was to get this applied to our bill today! Bless you all!

So, I'll share some pics with you now: 
The first one is on Rocco's 7th birthday - February 9th - Nemo hit with about 28" of sno...what a gift for doodles!

The second is what we all began to do after one too many snow storms hit the Northeast...and, this is on Luigi's 12th birthday - February 17th -

The next one is of our "hero" Ben with Luigi...Ben took him to all the radiation treatments...this is taken today after our good news...

And, this is me...finally, no more snow...after today's appointment...

Thank you, one and all for for prayers, positive thoughts, reassuring words, and, charitable donations! I am almost done with the retirement paperwork (oy vay!) and all the other school stuff - it's truly been a busy year. But, I'm back at the Zoo and should have more free time to visit much more often. I so look forward to daily walks with my puppies in retirement!

Luigi says, "Thanks for caring!"

Marcelle, Ben, Doodles & the Bichon 


Update - May 4, 2012

I have started to write this several times since Wednesday (5/2/12) – believe it or not, it’s been 4 weeks since Luigi’s last radiation treatment. Anyway, my eyes keep tearing up because I cannot find the words to express the amount of joy, relief, gratitude, awe, and love I have for everyone who has touched our lives – especially over the last 3 months – Luigi’s tumor has dissipated! His blood tests came back normal, too!
There is a “thickening” at the site of the tumor which may be scar tissue or dead cells yet to be absorbed/discarded by his system. His next appointment is the first week of July. He’ll have another blood panel and an MRI to keep track of his progress. He has a large lipoma under his left armpit that the oncologist highly recommends having removed. She said that she doesn’t want to give any possible renegade cancer cells the chance to breed or hide in this fatty mass.
They’ll be checking his blood protein levels, liver enzymes, platelet counts, etc., for a long time to come. What we know now is that Luigi is HEALTHY (gotta’ shout it from the mountain tops) and we appreciate everyday with him – not that we didn’t before – but, there’s a deeper appreciation that’s been re-awakened and we’re really loving it!
Thank you for all your support, kind words, prayers, and positive energy – the Zoo has been our lifeline so many times for our doodles. The Doodle Messenger has been supportive, too. A big thank you, also, to those who were so generous towards Luigi’s medical bills at Tuft’s. Without pet insurance and support through The Doodle Messenger, well let’s just say that the costs are rather daunting. I (we) do recommend some type of pet insurance, or setting aside a special savings account for your pet – $5500.00 will be reimbursed out of the $8200.00 thus far spent on his treatments.
We can always save up for that new dining room rug or summer vacation – nothing could replace our Luigi. Life is so precious. I know that everyone reading this knows that as fact. I just want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for keeping the faith for me when I felt like crumbling!
I’ll keep you updated on all his upcoming check ups, etc. And, of course, I’ll keep posting pictures of all the boys. What joy they have given to our  Family!


Update - April 14, 2012

Hi everyone! I want to thank you for all of your positive energy & prayers! They're working...please keep them coming...

Today was Luigi's 2 week check-up after finishing radiation. The tumor has shrunk 65%, and may continue to do so for a couple of months! :) He looks so good, too. Acting very doodlish - which is so welcomed to see!

He'll continue a follw-up schedule. In the summer, we may meet with another oncologist to see if a daily oral dose (at home) of a mild chemotherapy drug will be suitable to give Luigi - to keep the possibility of any systemic cancer cells at bay - that's in the back of our heads right now.

For today, though, we share our complete happiness with you. Three months ago we felt as if we were at the end of the road...little did we know we just had to revamp the GPS of life and take another road that led us to meeting more beautiful people. The meaning of life continues and we're forever grateful!

Now for some pics:

Here's my husband, Ben, with Luigi - these two have so many friends at Tuft's - people & pups that they've had the privilege of meeting on a daily basis...

This is the actual door they'd enter every day for teatments...

Here's Luigi after he jumped back into the truck, happy to be going home with a positive bill of health!

Now...about Rocco...good news...his pancreatitis has resolved after antibiotics and a month of Pepcid. Not so good news...he sliced a pad on his back paw pretty severely while playing Ringzinger with my husband. He's on pretty heavy antibiotics & pain meds. He'll survive, but does seem to enjoy all the extra attention!

My poor husband is going to become a nervous wreck over these guys. I told him we'll do a lot of day trip vacations this summer to recoup our "happiness meter"!

Thanks for looking - sorry so long!

Marcelle & boys



Update - March 24, 2012

   Luigi is halfway through his radiation treatments! His Radiation Oncologist, Dr.Michele Keyerleber, called to say that his blood work at this time is normal, although they are keeping a watch on the T4 level in his Thyroid function.
   He just began 2 daily doses of 750mg cephalexin (antibiotic) and 1 nightime dosage of 15mg prednisone (anti-inflamatory steroid) in preparation for radiation side effects.I also have an e-collar and aloe lotion at the ready, as we could begin to see side effects developing...and, currently, he is very itchy! The skin at the sites of the radiation will thin out, so we need to be monitoring skin breakdown, excessive drooling, fever, bloody stools, etc.
   All-in-all, he's looking pretty good. He and Rocco(with ball in mouth) woke me at 4:45AM this morning -tails wagging and ready to go out and play!  I said, "Guys, it's Saturday!".  But, my heart said, "Go outside and enjoy a moment of good health and spirits!".  I followed my heart! They can be silly & I love them so much.
   I think of people like Nancy & Jeff, Ru's mom, Kathryn (Keegan - who I met at a romp), and others, and realize that I am very blessed right now to still have these guys wagging their tails around me.  My heart breaks/aches for them!
   Remember when I wrote the initial story for Luigi and stated that the bills were around $1500.00?  Well, when I regrouped my brain cells & submitted them to Vet Pet Ins., it was more like $4095.26.  The good news is that we should be getting $3133.72 back!
   I have another $600.00 bill (2 days before radiation - checking the liver nodes they found) and the 75% payment required before they began radiation which was $3700.00. On the last day of radiation, I think we will write another check for about $1600.00.
   He may not need chemotherapy; and, if the tumor shrinks enough, they may be able to remove it...these are the hopeful words of his vet teams at Tufts.  However, we're taking one day at a time.
Other doodle news:
   Our Rocco is responding to medication - not enjoying the bland diet at all, but, I think he's just reluctant to eat.  He has a different insurance plan and his diagnostics began at $500.00 last week, not including meds and follow-ups. He'll be susceptible to future bouts of pancreatitis and monitored for diabetes, etc.  As long as he regains his health, you just can't put a price on his (& Louie's & Dino's) precious life!



Luigi’s story

   After raising house bunnies for 10 years, my husband, Ben, said that we could get a dog…so I did my due diligence and researched the web for allergy free/smart/energetic dogs.  I found a list with about 16 different breeds…a “Golden doodle” was on this list. It was such a different name that I knew I had to learn more about this breed.  That was the best decision I made.



   I always consider Luigi my best Internet buy – only because I was unaware of any local breeders of this wonderful dog.  He was born on February 17, 2001.

   I remember picking him up at Bradley International Airport on April 18, 2001 – he already had a group of admirers playing with him!  I picked him up, cradled him in my arms and he began to wrap me around his dew claws.

   Luigi went to Puppy kindergarten, advanced obedience classes, agility training classes and became a social therapy dog.  Currently he is registered as a Therapy Dog through TD INC.  Luigi was the social high light at the Jewish Healthcare Center where my mother-in-law resided for 3 years (2004-2007).  Luigi visited 3 floors of patients, all in various stages of life, dishing out his “Louie Love”, as they came to call it.

   Luigi is a very social dog who loves to be around people. While the other dogs in the family will eat or sleep, Luigi is awake and stands beside all who enter our home – it’s as if he wants everyone to feel comfort – and, all he takes in return is a good chin scratch.

   Luigi loved going to doodle romps that were held in our state.  It seems that being around other doodles at the romps brought out that frisky, energetic nature that seems to be inherent in this breed.  His gusto for life has always fed us when we were feeling low.  However, he’d always find the smallest dog at the park (usually not a doodle) and befriend it.  His last doodle romp friend was a Chinese Crested dog named “Cosmo”…what a pair!

   In 2007, we “adopted” another goldendoodle from the local animal shelter, who we named “Rocco”.  After some re-defining of the ranks – of course Luigi is top dog, Rocco earned his place in our home. In 2009, one of my husband’s clients was trying to find a home for a puppy …yeah, you guessed it, “Dino” entered our band of doggie brothers.  They have been best buddies since, and Rocco stays by his “brother’s” side…sniffing and giving kisses as he passes him. Dino will bring him a stuffed animal from time to time, too. It’s as if they realize that Luigi is going through a rough patch.






   Over the years, Luigi has had several lipomas develop and aspirated to make sure they were benign.  In June of 2011, we noticed one on his neck, which would also be aspirated several times over the next 5 months.  His local veterinarian sent the biopsies out and cancer never seemed to be in the cards.  He was given the antibiotic Amoxi 500mg/Clavulinic Acid 125 mg, for several weeks, hoping to clear up what we thought may have been an inflammation of his mandibular salivary gland.  When he didn’t respond to this treatment, our vet recommended having it biopsied/removed at Tufts University Hospital.  That was to be done on Thursday, February 16, 2012, the day before his 11th birthday.

   Our lives have changed since that day.  The surgeon attempted to remove it, but it is quite vascular in nature, and began to bleed. He couldn’t take a “wedge” sample because of that very fact, too.  So, he took what he could, a scraping, did a ligation on several veins, and closed him up.  The surgeon is very nice and spent an hour with us explaining the possible options for treatment – because this was definitely a cancerous tumor.  One thing he stated was that, through all his treatments that day, Luigi is one of the most loving, soulful dogs he has had the pleasure of treating.

   We were referred to the oncology department at Tufts University. On Wednesday, February 29,2012, they did another FNA (fine needle aspirate) of his mass to determine what type/stage of cancer he has as this will help decide the most appropriate treatment plan. While doing an ultrasound of his abdomen, they noticed nodules on his liver. These may or may not be related to the cancer on his neck.

  On Monday, March 5, 2012, Ben will drop Luigi off at Tuft’s to have his nodules biopsied via FNA with an ultrasound accompanying the procedure to locate the nodules. They will do blood coagulation profiles before the procedure to make sure they can proceed with the nodule biopsy safely, without any problems related to clotting.

   If the liver nodules are cancerous, Luigi will enter into a chemotherapy treatment plan immediately.  If the nodules are not cancerous, we will begin a 3-4 week treatment of “palliative radiation”.  After that, chemotherapy can be administered to make sure this cancer hasn’t spread to any other organs/systems in his body.  Of course, every procedure dictates that he is under heavy sedation – that alone makes me nervous.

   I will post updates after each treatment that Luigi endures.  He is the most precious gift of life in the form of a dog. We will do anything for him.  Currently, we have paid close to $1500.00 on surgery, FNB’s, and ultrasounds.  We’ve been quoted possible costs beginning at $6500.00 for the radiation treatments.  However, until we know what will be diagnosed & the following protocols, we just don’t know what the total cost is in reality.

   Thank you for offering this forum for doodle owners.  The support offered over the last two weeks has helped ease my tension and heavy heart.  We love Luigi.

More on Luigi


About Luigi's Cancer:


Mast Cell cancer is not uncommon in canines, however, by the time a lump or nodule is seen or felt, the dog may be considered in serious condition and medical intervention is necessary.  The lump may change shape and size on a daily or weekly basis often found in cells which trigger allergies in dogs.  If the tumor is accessible it may be removed and biopsied, if not, a needle biopsy may be done to decide the course of treatment.  In Luigi's case, his mass "mast" is in the right clavicle close to and involving the neck and it's critical veins, arteries, and muscles to the nasal, mouth, ears, and brain.

Surgery was ruled out because of these complications. Radiation and chemotherapy are now considered the course of action.  Luigi has already had exploratory surgery, however, his tumor involves organs and nerves that were not encapsulated thus a needle biopsy is required for the amount and duration of chemotherapy and radiation.  Luigi's treatment will begin in early March of 2012 at Tufts University with the Department of Veterinarian Oncology.





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