Smokey has cancer, retiring

Smokey VIII,a 9-year-old blue tick coon hound, mascot of the University of Tennessee football team since 1995 and eighth in a line of Smokeys whose service dates to 1953, will be retiring after the 2004 Peach Bowl Jan. 2 in Atlanta for health reasons.

Smokey VIII has been diagnosed with a nasal tumor filling the left side of his nasal cavity. That news came from Dr. Kate Stenske, DVM, an Internal Medicine Resident at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.

''Given his condition,'' Dr. Stenske said, ''it would be a good idea for Smokey VIII to retire after the bowl game and focus his energies on his cancer treatment.''

Dr. Stenske said that, with radiation treatment, Smokey VIII's life span and quality of life will be greatly improved. Without this treatment, his life expectancy would likely be less than one year.

Dr. Stenske added that Smokey VIII would be on the sidelines for the Peach Bowl, but will not run onto the field with his trainers and is expected to ride a float in the parade.

''He's the best one we ever had,'' owner Earl Hudson said. ''We don't have to worry about him. He's been good to young and old people alike, babies even. He's been very faithful in the heat or the cold.

''He's always been active, always howling, and never seems to tire of the attention. It's always sad when Smokey's tenure is cut short. I thought he might make it two or three more years. Smokey IX is already being groomed and there will be no interruption of the beloved Tennessee mascot.''

Dr. Stenske said the normal life expectancy of a dog the size of Smokey VIII is about 12 years of age. ''We believe we caught this tumor early, and with aggressive treatment, we anticipate Smokey will do very well so he can enjoy his retirement with Earl. He has been a loyal mascot to the University of Tennessee. He is receiving the best care, which he has earned.''

The line of Smokeys began in 1953, when Rev. Bill Brooks of Knoxville and his wife, Mildred, entered a blue tick coon hound named ''Brooks' Blue Smokey'' in a UT Pep Club contest to select a team mascot. That dog became Smokey I.

Rev. Brooks died in 1986 and Mrs. Brooks cared for the dogs until 1994, when Hudson, Mrs. Brooks' brother, took over. Mrs. Brooks died in 1997.

Since 1995, Smokey VIII and the Vols have compiled a record of 91-21, with two SEC titles and the 1998 national championship.

Here are the service dates of the Smokeys from the beginning.

· Smokey I (1953-54)
· Smokey II (1955-64)
· Smokey III (1965-77)
· Smokey IV (1978-79)
· Smokey V (1980-83)
· Smokey VI (1984-91)
· Smokey VII (1992-94)
· Smokey VIII (1995-2004)
· Smokey IX (2004- )

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