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Smokey's Story

A doctor's best friend and companion diagnosed with metastatic melanoma cancer.

“Smokey taught me the value of leaving no stone unturned in the search for better therapies and the importance of hope.” - Dr Gerald Post

How can I summarize a life on a page?  How can I express the unbearable grief I felt? How can I explain to you the uttermost joy I experienced for 15 years with Smokey?

The words on this page are but a pale attempt to convey both unbelievable joy and unbearable sadness.

Smokey, my miniature schnauzer, was more than a pet to me: he was my constant companion. For 15 years we shared our lives and his passing on May 21, 2005 was one of the saddest days of my life. But as horrible as that day was, it will always be overshadowed by the 15 years of utter happiness. No matter what went wrong (or right) in my life, Smokey was always with me, and his presence and love got me through many tough times. We truly shared our lives; it was always Gerry and Smokey together, never Gerry nor Smokey alone.

Smokey was always excited to see me (How many people in your lives are always glad to see you?). No matter if I was gone for an hour or two weeks, when I walked through my front door, I knew I would hear his bark as he came running towards me. As most pet owners know, this welcome home is one of the great joys of being a dog owner. And in truth, I was always equally glad to see him!

Smokey, my Smokey-dog, my companion, was truly a constant source of happiness. Smokey spent the first 10 weeks of his life at my side. During the day we went to Central Park to play and at night we both worked at a local emergency hospital (I was on the late night shift at a veterinary hospital.) For the next 15 years Smokey saw me through a residency in oncology; studying for boards; board certification; multiple moves across the country; and countless other trying times in my life. The unique bond that I shared with him can never be broken or duplicated.

I think the hardest thing Smokey had to do in his life was to share me. For 11 years, he had to share me with my partner, David, and for the past nine years with our other pet Cody. Sharing was never one of Smokey’s strong points (as both David and Cody can attest), but he did come to love both David and Cody very much.

Smokey was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma after I noticed a tiny cut on one of his toes; a biopsy of the toe and a radiograph of his lungs showed that the melanoma of his toe had already spread to his lungs. When I saw the radiographs and read the biopsy report I was devastated, as I knew that the average survival time of dogs with this type of cancer was about three months. As Smokey was incredibly healthy and vibrant at this time, and I was unwilling to lose him, I contacted everyone I knew in the veterinary and human oncology fields to try and come up with a treatment plan that would save him.

We put him on two courses of one experimental vaccine with chemotherapy which miraculously caused the tumor in his lungs to shrink, then remain stable for an amazing nine months. We then put him on a third experimental vaccine which slowed his tumor’s growth rate for another 12 months. Smokey’s tumor then started growing again. By this time in his life, he also started to develop weakness in his rear legs, likely the result of inter-vertebral disc disease. Two and a half years after the initial diagnosis, we unfortunately had to put Smokey to sleep due to complications of the metastatic melanoma.

Words cannot express the thanks to all of the people who helped me care for Smokey. How do you say thank you to someone for allowing you to feel joy? Without the help of Drs. Debra Wesiman, Robyn Elmslie, Steve Dow, Jedd Wolchok, and Phil Bergman, Smokey’s treatment would not have been possible. I also want to thank my partner, David, for his loving care of Smokey during the past 11 years and for taking Smokey for many of his treatments.

Smokey taught me the value of leaving no stone unturned in the search for better diagnostics and therapy for a loved one stricken with cancer. This lesson will be one of Smokey’s legacies. As the owner of a veterinary oncology practice, I have devoted our practice to searching for THE BEST therapy available for every animal with cancer. We will insure, to the best of our ability, to offer the best therapy available, even if that therapy is only available at another location. If I would do it for Smokey, we will do it for your pet.

The loss I felt and still feel over his death is sometimes overwhelming, but even this grief is insignificant compared to the happiness I shared with him. Whenever I feel sad, I just remember the euphoric feeling I had every time Smokey jumped into my arms as I came through my front door.

Smokey, I will always be with you (and in truth you are always with me),

Dr. Gerry Post

www.vcchope.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Leslie Yager February 26, 2013 at 04:23 PM
Thanks for sharing this story. I know how it feels. It's painfully sad in the end, but worth the companionship and happy times. Sounds like Smokey had a great, long life!

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