Ripley's Tumor Surgery

Who is Ripley?

Ripley is my 8 year old golden retriever.  He's a dog.  Canus Lupus Familiaris.  But he's much more than that.  The cliche of a dog as "man's best friend" is overused.  So I won't say that's what he is.  In fact, he's much more than that.  

Ripley came along at a time that found me in the darkest pit of despair I've ever endured.  Not to say that the breakup of my marriage was the worst thing to ever happen in human history, but as ridiculous as it sounds, that's how it felt to me.  

This isn't something I usually talk about, but for a while there I saw very little point in living.  My therapist had a dog who was frequently in the office and she had great faith in their healing powers.  After all, what I had suddenly been deprived of was love, and a dog may well be the only love money can buy.  And so it came to pass in August of 2008 that a prescribed Emotional Support Animal, in the form of a tiny 8 week old bundle of fur and drool came into my life.  

It was a rocky start.  He didn't take to housebreaking for quite a while, and I'd had him only a week when he needed surgery to remove a leather dog collar with a metal buckle from his stomach.  To this day I don't know how he could have managed to eat such a thing on the street without me noticing.  (I actually suspect it happened before I adopted him.)  His recovery from that surgery was a powerful bonding experience.  He was still too small to walk down the stairs, and so I had to carry him out every time I thought he might be about to pee or poop!  But he healed quickly.  And over the years, with his love and the responsibility he represented, I healed as well.  

To say that I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for Ripley may, or may not, be an exageration.  I really don't know.  But I know that caring for him, loving him, and the love that he returned to me, was far more important than I ever expected it could be.  He was always there for me.

And now, when he needs me the most, I may not have the resources he needs.  

What does he need?

Yesterday, at his regular check-up, the vet found a lump on Ripley's thyroid.  A needle aspiration  showed that it was not simply a waxy cyst which are fairly common and not usually a problem.  It's a tumor.  And it has to be removed.  But thyroid tumors are aparently pretty rare in dogs and this is not a surgery my regular vet can perform.  The first quote from a nearby animal hospital for the surgery is $4000.  Unfortunately, that's beyond my means at the moment.  

I'm working again after 7 months between jobs.  The job I'd been expecting to start in March was delayed until just last week.  In that time I fell quite a bit behind.  I'm only just catching up.  I would never come to you, my friends, to ask for money for myself.  But Ripley saved my life, and now it may be my turn to save his.  And I need your help to do it.

What's the prognosis?

The tumor must be removed before we'll know for sure.  If it's benign, the prognosis is excellent.  Possibly only half the thyroid will need to be removed, but even if all of it must go, thyroid-replacement medication is effective and relatively inexpensive, and Ripley could lead a normal life for the rest of his natural life span.  We'd still have many good years ahead of us.  

If the tumor is malignant, follow-up chemotherapy may be needed.  But x-rays Saturday showed no other tumors, so the prognosis should still be hopeful.  But there's no way to know anything until surgery.  An MRI might show more, but it would be really expensive and surgery would still be needed.

But what about those sharks?

But wait, you say.  Aren't you the writer of Sharknado?  Aren't you rich?  Or at least, haven't you made a lot of money off those movies?

Sadly, the answer is "No".  Someone is certainly getting rich off Sharknado, but it ain't me.  The first movie paid a few thousand dollars.  No one could have expected it to become the phenomenon that it did, and no sequels were intended.  Each subsequent film has paid slightly better, but I haven't had profit participation in any of them and without union residuals, those script fees are quickly eaten up by even the most modest living expenses.  The surprising truth is that these last three years of "success" have been the most financially challenging of my life.  Apparently fame and fortune don't always go together! 

There are VERY promising things on the horizon, but the film & TV business is a fickle mistress and nothing is certain until the check clears.  At the moment, I can keep a roof over our heads and kibble in the bowl, but that's about it.

As a side note, Ripley has been a big part of the Sharknado phenomenon.  Not only has he kept me company, usually sleeping at my feet, while I've written each of the first four movies, but he was the inspiration for the golden retriever rescued from a car in the first movie, and actually appeared on screen as a military working dog in the third movie.  He also provided his back as a makeshift "desk", in the most perfect "stay" he's ever managed, on the set of that film, when I had to hand write some last second dialogue for Frankie Muniz and Lorenzo Lamas!


So the surgery will be $4000 and I've already spent over $600 on exam, x-rays, blood tests, etc.  And there will inevitably be additional follow-up costs.  So I'm hoping to raise up to $5,000 to get through this.  I'm looking into alternate surgical hospitals that may be less expensive, and if I find one, I'll reduce the goal here.  We'll probably have to schedule surgery within the next week or so.  Ripley seems fine at the moment; his usual, supernaturaly happy, friendly self.  I'm hoping to resolve this before it affects his quality of life, and before it can spread.  I take the responsibility of caring for my fuzzy companion very seriously.  He's always had regular checkups and received whatever care he's needed.  Until now he's always been happy and healthy.  In fact, he even likes going to the vet!

If you've met Ripley you know what a special, happy soul he is.  If you haven't, you can check out some of his adventures on his Facebook page.  I hope you can help us through this difficult situation.  Any donation, even the smallest amount, would be hugely appreciated.  If you can't donate, then please know that whatever good thoughts you can spare will help too!

Thanks so much.


Donations (0)

  • Michele McEntee 
    • $10 
    • 26 mos
  • Laura Gibson 
    • $10 
    • 30 mos
  • Judy Bailey 
    • $215 
    • 31 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $10 
    • 31 mos
  • Brian Scott 
    • $50 
    • 32 mos


Thunder Levin 
Santa Monica, CA
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