Thursday May 2, 2013

When you're sick and in need of cheering up, who's always there for you, tail wagging?

Who can you turn to for unconditional support and comfort?

Man's Best Friend, naturally.

Keeping dogs' caregiving qualities in mind, it's fitting that our four-legged friends have been officially enlisted in the battle against cancer.

Bark for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society that is new to Bennington County this year, encourages the participation of our canine friends. Bark for Life is an arm of the ACS Relay for Life fundraisers held in communities across the nation.

From the ACS Relay for Life website: "Canine caregivers are canine companions, guide dogs, service dogs, rescue dogs, therapy dogs, police dogs, cancer survivor dogs, and diagnostic dogs, who with their owners, are joining the American Cancer Society as Relay teams. They participate to celebrate cancer survivorship, to honor people lost to cancer, and to fundraise in support of the American Cancer Society mission of eliminating cancer though research, education, advocacy and service."

The paws-itively dog-friendly event got its start in Pottstown, Pa., in 2007 because its sister event, Relay for Life, does not permit dogs. The brilliant idea of involving dogs, which are also caregivers and companions to people with cancer, took off. For an event that was unleashed just a short time ago, Bark for Life quickly met with fundraising success gained national attention.

This year's Bark for Life in Pottstown, a small borough about 40 miles west of Philadelphia, entailed a mile walk around a park for 180 humans and their pets. The event raised more than $48,000 to aid cancer research, according to the Pottstown Mercury. In prior years the event raised up to $72,000 in a three-hour stretch.

As Vermont has the highest percentage of pet owners (70.8 percent) of any state, according to a recent study released by the American Veterinary Medical Association, such an event should go over like gangbusters here.

The inaugural Bark for Life of Bennington County will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Arlington Recreation Park this Sunday. Don't worry if you haven't registered -- "walk up" registrations will be accepted.

"It's an opportunity where we can honor our four-legged friends. ... They're both caregivers and survivors," organizer Donna Yost told the Banner.

Cost is $15 for one dog and $5 for each additional pup. To learn more, search Facebook for Bark for Life of Bennington County, or visit www.relayforlife.org/barkbenningtoncountyvt. See related story on page 1 for additional information.

Those who aren't dog owners are welcome to attend Bark for Life of Bennington County as well. There will be vendors, music and more at the park. Also, if you're are thinking about adopting dog, Second Chance Animal Center will have dogs for adoption at Bark for Life.

If you're looking to send cancer to the doghouse, here's a way to start.

~Michelle Karas