Cancer is a word that I am certain everyone does not want to hear, especially with his own name in the same sentence. I would venture to say that all of us have been touched by this malevolent disease in some way, at some point in our lives. Perhaps it was through the loss of a loved one, through our own personal experience, or even through a beloved pet. Cancer, you see, does not discriminate based on age, gender, race, nor species.
Throughout my 29 years as a veterinarian, I have cherished the relationships I have formed with my clients and their pets. I have been blessed to observe the love and strength of the human-animal bond over and over again. I have had the privilege of watching my clients’ children grow into pet owners, and, sadly, I also have experienced the loss of clients of all ages to cancer.
Veterinarians are unique in the respect that we are honored to form relationships with people as well as their pets, while simultaneously observing the powerful bond between them. Pets provide purpose, companionship, security, unconditional love, and joy, without judgment, and always with unquestioned forgiveness.
So when one of my patients is diagnosed with cancer, it becomes a “double jeopardy” of sorts for me. Naturally, I know I must provide the very best care and compassion that I can for my four-legged patient. At the same time, my heart aches for the pet owner who is experiencing the inevitable heartbreak of losing a pet to a dreaded disease. I celebrate the human-animal bond at the same time that I grieve its loss.
Currently, I have the responsibility and privilege to care for three canine cancer patients, all of whom have loving and passionate caregivers, and all of whom are thriving throughout their treatments without illness. I am reminded that these patients are experiencing prolonged quality and quantity of life, not only because of the love and dedication of their human caregivers, but because of research, both veterinary and human.
Yes, pets do benefit from human cancer research. Because pets get some of the same cancers as people, pets and people are in cancer trials together. Pet cancer treatments and medications are often born out of the results of human research.
Due to the alluring power of the human-animal bond and my fondness for animals, I have a personal vendetta against cancer. My mission, and the mission of so many others, is to fight cancer by educating others about early detection and by being a cancer research fundraiser. Coincidentally, I was introduced to the American Cancer Society mini-relay called “Bark for Life” last year through the Delphos Relay for Life. This unique and novel fundraiser for the ACS honors the life-long contribution of “canine caregivers.”
Bark for Life is a dog walk fundraiser that pairs people with their canine companions and, cancer survivors with their “canine caregivers.” BFL walkers seek financial sponsors, with all funds collected being donated to the ACS to continue their mission to advocate, create awareness, educate, and fund cancer research. This mini-relay gives people an opportunity to be empowered through their canine companion partnerships and to contribute to cancer cures through the mission of the American Cancer Society.
In short, Bark for Life gives everyone who has been close to a cancer experience, and has a dog in their life, a chance to fight cancer in a very unique way. Celebrate the human-animal bond, while remembering loved ones and “barking back” at cancer.
On behalf of canine cancer survivors “Olivia” Friedhoff (chronic lymphocytic leukemia), “Jack” Frost (Multiple Myeloma), and “Petey” Ladd (B-Cell Lymphoma), I am personally inviting you to gather your sponsors and attend the second Delphos Bark for Life being held from 2 to 5 p.m. June 21 at Leisure Park on Ridge Road in Delphos. This event was highly successful in 2013, netting more than $7,500 for the American Cancer Society.
As I like to point out, who among us has NOT been touched by cancer? This is our opportunity to “take a bite out of cancer” while celebrating the human-animal bond, which just might be the best medicine of all! Will I see you at the Delphos Bark for Life?
Dr. Bonnie Jones is co-owner of Delphos Animal Hospital which she operates with her husband, John H. Jones, DVM . Registration forms for the 2014 American Cancer Society’s Bark for Life of Delphos are available at Delphos Animal Hospital.