Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

September 7, 2013

First Bark for Life a success for ACS

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

ASHLAND — By any measure the American Cancer Society’s first “Bark for Life” event on Saturday at Central Park was a howling success.

The event drew about 75 canines in a wide range of breeds and sizes and raised about $1,000 for cancer research.

“It has been really good. We’ve got more dogs than we expected,” said Andrea Arnett, community representative for the Boyd County ACS chapter. “We’re going to build on it make it bigger and better next year.”

Bark for Life is a fund-raising event done by many ACS chapters throughout the country. But Arnett said the Ashland event was the only one of its type within a 200-mile radius, which was one of the reasons the local chapter decided to do it.

Another, she said, is that cancer is a subject that often hits home with dog owners. Canines are susceptible to the disease, and “Any advancements in the treatment of cancer in humans applies to dogs as well,” she said.

Dogs also are often sources of comfort to owners suffering from cancer, Arnett said.

“There are a lot of benefits to having dogs as caregivers,” she said. “It’s very therapeutic.”

In addition to helping the ACS, the event provided dog owners with an opportunity to mingle, show off their animals and enjoy a fun time outdoors on a gorgeous, preautumn day.

“Anything to do with the American Cancer Society, we’re always willing to help,” said Ashland Joseph of Worthington, who attended with his 12-year-old daughter, Isabella; Charlie, his Shar Pei-Labrador mix; and Isabella’s two 7-week-old pug puppies, Annabelle and Barbara.

Joseph, who manages the Cannonsburg Walmart, said he and his daughter were strong supporters of the ACS and its mission because there was a strong history of cancer in his family. His sister died of the disease and his parents have both battled it, he said.

One of Isabella’s pups, Barbara, received the award for smallest dog at the event. She carried both dogs in a basket during a parade lap around the park.

Another contender for the tiniest dog trophy was Sir Didymus, a miniature Dachsund owned by Amberly Hajipour of Wheelersburg. She said the 15-week-old pup only weighed a pound and a half.

She also explained the source of the dog’s rather unusual name: a character in one of her favorite movies, “Labyrinth” starring David Bowie.

Hajipour’s partner, Athena Sand, brought her two dogs, Diesel and Shadow. Diesel, she said, has a rather unusual talent: the ability to understand and obey commands given to him in American Sign Language.

“He knows back up, sit, stay, jump, a lot of different things,” she said.

Dale and Meg McKenzie of Ashland said Saturday’s event was special to them because Dale’s niece had died of cancer about a year ago at the age of 42 and they’d also lost one of their dogs, a boxer, to the disease.

The couple said they appreciated the opportunity to be able to support the American Cancer Society along with their two dogs, a French bulldog and a pug.

Dogs normally are not allowed in Central Park. To be able to have the event there, Arnett said the ACS had to promise the board the animals would be kept under control in the area around the bandstand and not be allowed to run free, and that owners would clean up any messes their dogs made.

The event came off without a hitch, with no reports of problems, she said.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.