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  WSU veterinary hospital keeps Congressman's pet dog kicking

Published: Dec. 23, 2004 in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News
Byline: By E. Kirsten Peters, staff writer
Reproduced with permission of the Daily News

Tucker won't discuss taxes or the war in Iraq. But the dog, who belongs to outgoing Republican Congressman George Nethercutt, communicates with his veterinarians using his big brown eyes as he makes his way through daily cancer treatments at Washington State University's veterinary hospital.


Tucker the dog is calmed by Betsy Wheeler, left, and Skeeter Munson, technicians at the Washington State University veterinary hospital


"He's a sweet dog," said veterinarian Janean Fidel, who is in charge of Tucker's treatments. "I really do think that the nice ones are the most likely to end up with autoimmune diseases and cancer."

As a golden retriever, Tucker excels at being nice. "He's just a fine dog, really sweet to us," Nethercutt said in a telephone interview from the East Coast. "And we are glad he's getting treatments at WSU. When I travel and talk with people at other vet schools, they always give the highest ratings to Washington State for the vet program there."

Six-year-old Tucker's problems were noticed this fall just a few days before Nethercutt lost his bid to unseat Washington's Democratic Sen. Patty Murray. "It was just before the election, we noticed him scratching his ear a lot and having trouble with his mouth," said Terry Hammer, a family friend of the Nethercutts who was caring for Tucker during the election and continues to care for him during the cancer treatments. "So we took him to a vet and they sent us on here to WSU."

The Hammer family lives on a farm outside of Oakesdale. Family members take turns driving Tucker to WSU each weekday for another round of treatment. "He's receiving radiation therapy for 18 days, Monday through Friday," said WSU animal technician Betsy Wheeler. "He has a form of skin cancer in the gums. The tumor was about thumb-size and is now down to about a small pea."

The radiation therapy is given to Tucker at what is known as the shared facility at the veterinary hospital. Animals share the use of the equipment with humans. "It's unusual to have a linear accelerator that's available for animal use," college of veterinary medicine spokesman Darin Watkins said. "Unlike people, Tucker gets a dose of fast-acting anesthesia so that he lies still as the radiation is administered."

Tucker has his own personal foam pad that's shaped to fit his body so his head can be held in the same position day after day.  "That's custom made for each of our patients, human or animal," said radiation therapist Rob Houston.

While Tucker takes a short nap, photons are beamed into his head.
Tucker is one of 130 animals to receive treatment from the linear accelerator this calendar year.
"His type of tumor is one that has a good probability of responding well to the treatment," Fidel said.

When he first arrived at WSU, Tucker resisted treatment, planting his feet in the hall and trying to impede the work of his caretakers. Now he is given a small sedative when he first arrives and is calm during the rest of his visit. "In some ways he's glad to come down here each day," Hammer said. "He loves to ride in the car."

E. Kirsten Peters can be reached at (509) 334-6397, ext. 310, or by e-mail at

Revised December 28, 2004     |     Printer Friendly Version

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