On Friday we said goodbye to Colonel. He was our "medical miracle" Greyhound, but for his final illness there were no miracles to be had, and so we let him go peacefully to end his suffering. He was as sweet and as companionable a Greyhound as ever there was.
Colonel was one of the litter bred by Pam and Glen Davis out of their wonderful British Greyhound Amy by Flying Oak, an American racer of Irish lineage. When Colonel was born, they immediately noticed his resemblance to our Merlin, the brother of Amy. They named him "Colonel" in honor of a sometimes nickname of mine, and declared that I must have him. His full name became Onrush The Colonel of SummerWind.
He was as cute a puppy as I've ever seen. There is a photo which has made the rounds over the years of him at about 2 months old, standing between Merlin's front legs, both of them looking intently at the camera. When he came to live with us, his sister Stella, then named "Stubby" for the stub tail she was born with, came with him "temporarily" so that he would have a puppy friend to burn up all that puppy energy with. She has never left. Stella regularly bedeviled Colonel, but he was the soul of patience with her even in their later years, and put up with her shenanigans as if she were his cross to bear.
Colonel had a brief lure coursing career, but sadly he did not have the feet for the sport,so was "retired" from it at age 3.
The most remarkable aspect of Colonel's life was his ability to recover from the unusual number of health problems he encountered in his too-brief 8 years. In July 2008, he was diagnosed with hermangisarcoma, but underwent a successful surgery for removal of the tumor. Later that month, he began suffering from chylothorax, which involves a leakage of chyle, a lymphatic fluid, into his chest cavity, putting pressure on his lungs and making it difficult for him to breathe. The prognosis for dogs with chylothorax is usually bleak, but we learned from a lure coursing friend with a Borzoi who had been afflicted with the condition about a surgical procedure for it being done at the University of Georgia vet school.
Off we went to Athens, and Colonel had the surgery, which invovled tying off the lymphatic duct, and removing the pericardium, the sac around the heart. Colonel tolerated the surgery well, but he still looked like "death warmed over" when he came home. But in time he recovered and started looking and acting like his old self.
However, about 2 months after his surgery, Colonel began developing a swelling behind one of his eyes that caused it to bulge out and give him considerable pain. Back we went to the Univeristy of Georgia, where tests were run and a biopsy was taken, and the tumor behind his eye was determined to be caused by lymphoma. The prognosis again looked bleak, but we opted for a one-time, "single drug therapy" of a chemotherapy drug designed to reduce the tumor, and, in combination with Prednisone, perhaps give Colonel a few more months to live. Lo and behold, the tumor shrank to the point of disappearing, Colonel's eye returned to normal size, and eventually we took him off the Prednisone and he was once again seemingly healthy and happy.
If all that were not enough, Colonel devloped a tumor in a major blood vessel on his chest, which would cause a "blister" of sorts which would fill with blood occasionally and leak copiously, requiring us to "body wrap" Colonel so as to apply pressure and stop the bleeding. After a year or so of this occasional problem, we began exploring the surgical options but were advised against pursuing it because it was unknown whether Colonel could tolerate anesthesia of the durataion required for such a surgery. Then one day we noticed that the blister was spontaneously shrinking and was no longer filled with blood. Over the course of several weeks, the blister disappeared and it was almost impossible to tell where it had been.
By this time we decided that although Colonel was something of a health "train wreck," he could beat about anything that life threw at him. Sadly, however, this past week he became gravely ill very sudddenly and was unable to get up or move about without assistance. Blood tests showed that it was likely that the lymphoma had returned, and was very aggressively affecting several of his systems. It was unlikely that he would be able to recover from these various problems, and he was suffering from them greatly, so we made the decision to let him go and be free of the various illnesses that life had dealt him.
Colonel was best known for his sweetness -- he was always glad to see you and just could not get enough pats on the head. He didn't deserve all the health problems life gave him, but he handled them all with dignity and a seeming determination to overcome them to live his life as he wanted. We will remember him for that and will always miss him.
John and Laura Parker