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