When this bomb-sniffing dog got cancer, his military handler stepped up

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Cyril, a bomb-sniffing dog for the U.S. Navy, loved going to work every day of his career. Whether checking the vehicles coming in to military bases, or sniffing suspicious objects, Cyril never hesitated to do the work that keeps America safe.

So when Cyril came down with cancer, there was never any doubt his former military handler, Antonio Fernandez, would stand by him.

Cyril is now getting chemotherapy at BluePearl Veterinary Partners.  And Fernandez is grateful for the additional time he and Cyril will have together.

“He gave a lot to this country and he didn’t even know he was giving it,” Fernandez said. “Just to get to spend time with him and see him comfortable and happy means pretty much everything.”

After five years as a master-at-arms with the Navy, Fernandez is in the process of transitioning out of the military.  Cyril, 8, a German shepherd, retired about two years ago.  The two worked together in the Navy for about 15 months, while stationed in Bahrain.

During a visit to Cooke Veterinary Medical Center the staff noticed an enlarged spleen and lymph nodes. Later diagnosis proved Cyril has stage 4 lymphoma.

Dr. Nicholas Rinaldi is treating Cyril at BluePearl’s Town Center hospital, with the goal of giving the former military dog the best quality of life he can possibly have. Cyril is getting a series of chemotherapy medicines under a regimen known as CHOP, also called a Modified Madison Wisconsin Protocol.

Although humans sometimes feel miserable during chemotherapy, dogs often feel little or no ill effects – partly because the goal of treatment is to maintain a good quality of life, without excessive side effects from the medicine.

So far Cyril is responding well to chemotherapy with no obvious pain or other side effects.

“I think I fell in love with Cyril the first time I met him,” Rinaldi said. He is impressed by the strong bond between Fernandez and Cyril, and even that Fernandez’s friends have sometimes volunteered to bring in Cyril for treatment, when Fernandez had military duties.

“There are a lot of people who care about Cyril,” Rinaldi said. “It seems like Cyril kind of wins the hearts of people that he meets.”

Fernandez agrees. He is grateful that Rinaldi is providing such sophisticated care for Cyril, and he also is grateful that the non-profit national charity Frankie’s Friends has also stepped in to help.

“It really touches our hearts to see the strong bond that formed between Cyril and Mr. Fernandez while they were both serving our country,” said Danielle Lanier Martin, executive director of Frankie’s Friends. “We’re so thankful for their service and believe they both deserve our assistance to ensure they have more precious time together.”

To learn more about how Frankie’s Friends is raising money to pay for Cyril’s care, go to this link.

The goal of all this is very simple, Fernandez said.

“I want him to live as long as he can and be as comfortable as he can,” Fernandez said.