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Hokey’s triumph

Despite battling two deadly cancers, a dog treated at the Vet College has become an emblem of hope for patients and pet owners facing terminal illness.

Hokey, a Belgian Tervuren, was top ranked in agility, obedience, herding and tracking when, in September 2009, lymph nodes across his body suddenly swelled.

Debra Eldredge ’76, DVM ’80, a retired veterinarian-turned-dog-trainer, brought Hokey to Cornell, where a biopsy revealed that Hokey had aggressive lymphoma, an immune-cell cancer with a median survival time of one year.

After chemotherapy, Hokey “earned the highest level title in agility that year. He especially loves tracking, and chemo can destroy the sense of smell,” Eldredge said. “Yet I had faith in Hokey’s abilities and we continued training.”

Hokey became the 280th Champion Tracker ever in the history of AKC, passing all the most difficult tests passed after chemotherapy. A certified therapy dog, Hokey has appeared at many cancer fundraisers. In April 2010 Freedom Guide Dogs named him Top Companion Dog.

In October 2011 Hokey developed a troubling sneeze. Eldredge found a cancerous tumor in the left side of his nose. Like the first cancer, this one had a one-year survival expectancy.

Hokey began a course of 19 daily radiation treatments using Cornell’s linear accelerator. After radiation and recovery from minor side effects to his eyes, Hokey returned home.

“He competed in obedience again this month and loves to be back to work,” Eldredge said. “His genetics must stink for him to get two cancers, but his love of life and healing powers are strong.”

Hokey has donated blood to the DNA bank at Cornell, where it will contribute to cancer research in dogs and humans.

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