by Dr. Gerry Post
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 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 2 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 country and countless other trying
times in my life. The unique bond that I shared with him
can never be broken nor duplicated.
I think the hardest thing Smokey had to do in his life
was to share me. For the past 11 years, he had to share
me with my partner David and for the past 9 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 3 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
9 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 un-turned
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),