Capitol Connection: What a Trooper

August 6, 2014

At a recent meeting of the Avon-Canton Rotary Club I was introduced to one of the most inspiring constituents I’ve ever met. Not only was he a cancer survivor, still wearing the scars of a recent brain tumor surgery; but he was also on a special mission to bring others hope – all while walking on four legs.

Trooper is a German Shepherd from Avon who is battling brain cancer. His owner, the equally inspiring Karyn Economu, brought him to that rotary meeting just as she plans to bring him to children’s hospitals and cancer treatment centers, to show his bravery and talk about a miracle treatment helping him today.

In March, Trooper was a young and healthy 7-year-old dog. But one afternoon Karyn realized something was off. After a string of odd behavior, many vet visits, and eventually a series of terrifying seizures, a tumor was found in Trooper’s brain. Karyn was told that it would be deadly.

But Karyn didn’t give up hope. After consulting additional in-state experts, she heard about a unique treatment program at the University of Minnesota – a clinical trial to treat dogs with tumors without chemotherapy or radiation. Instead of using these traditional treatments, the University developed a system to create individual cancer vaccines from an actual tumor, designed to help an individual’s immune system recognize and destroy tumors in the brain.

After Trooper’s surgery in Connecticut, his tumor was sent to the University of Minnesota, where they are currently examining it. From this tumor, doctors plan to develop a serum specially designed for Trooper to enable his own immune system to fight the cancer.

“Not only does this help Trooper, but it also has the potential to help so many others,” said Karyn. “In treating Trooper, doctors can learn more about the science. The hope is that one day they will be able to use these same techniques to treat and cure humans too.”

Karyn and Trooper are now on a mission to share information about this treatment with as many people as they can, and they are starting right here in Northwest Connecticut. Many people don’t know that this treatment is even an option for their dog, Karyn explained to me; and she’s hoping to change that.

In addition to talking to community members about the treatment program, she is also sharing Trooper’s story with human cancer patients, and plans to visit hospitals and treatment centers.

“If Trooper makes just one child with cancer happy, if he can give just one person a sense of hope, then we’ve done our job,” Karyn said. “If there is hope for my dog there is hope for you too.”

While Karyn knows she is “just one little voice in Avon,” she is also committed to making that voice heard.

I am continuously inspired by the people I meet every day, and I share this story to help make sure her “little voice” is indeed heard. Karyn has a powerful message, and Trooper is a powerful symbol. Hope is never far.

For more information on the University of Minnesota’s program visit To learn more about Trooper visit