Saturday morning, leashes will be rattling and tails will be wagging all over the Great Bend area. Pooches will bound out the door and into the car as their owners make their way to Veterans Memorial Dog Park for the first ever Bark for Life Festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event, sponsored by local Relay for Life teams, precedes the annual event coming up on June 7.
“Relay for Life is about fighting back against cancer,” said Linn Hogg, organizer of the event. “One way of fighting back is exercising and becoming healthier, and Bark for Life reminds us that we can use our canine friends to help us do that.”
Not only do they make good companions on walks and runs, dogs can be invaluable for boosting mood and reducing stress in patients currently battling cancer. Trained therapy dogs are even used within oncology settings to distract and calm patients undergoing difficult treatment regimens. There is much to celebrate about how dogs help in the battle against cancer.
Prior to participation in the festival, dog owners need to provide a signed release stating their entrant(s) have up to date immunizations and each dog must be leashed in order to participate.
If you don’t own a dog, but still want to take part, take heed. The Golden Belt Humane Society will feature an “Adopt-a-Dog” booth where participants can select a pooch to accompany them for the afternoon for no more than the cost of registration.
“It’s a great chance for our four-legged friends to get out and enjoy some exercise,” said Hogg. “Perhaps there may even be a few matches made.”
Registration fees go to Relay for Life, and all entrants will receive a bandana or collar for their pooch, a goody bag and a chance to bob for hot dogs. Hogg said the hot dogs will be released, two at a time, into wading pools for dogs to go after.
“It’s really funny. Some dogs like the water, and others don’t, but the chance to grab a hot dog is enough to get them to give it a try,” she said.
Prizes donated by local sponsors will be given for Best Bark and Best “Dance” contests. One sponsor has donated several fetching balls and heavy-duty frisbees for fetching contests. Demonstrations of canine skill are also planned throughout the event.
Barton County Deputy Sheriff Aaron Conaway will bring “Rocco”, the department’s K-9 unit to demonstrate various feats of detection. Rocco is a Belgian malinois, a shepherd dog imported from Holland. He has been with the BSCO since October, 2011. All demonstrations will take into consideration the size and ages of those in attendance, Hogg said. K-9s undergo extensive training costing a minimum of $10,000 per dog.
Local dog training expert Bobby King will lead members of local kennel clubs in demonstrations of canine agility. In agility, dogs learn to perform various stunts under the instruction of their handler. Learning to consistently hop over, under and through obstacles takes time and consistency, and the person conducting the demonstration typically will work with their dog for several weeks to get them ready for demonstration.
Food and craft vendors will also be handy, and Relay for Life teams will have t-shirts and luminaries on hand for the upcoming June event.
“We think this is going to be a really fun event for both dogs and people,” Hogg said.
One estimate is that nearly one in three pet dogs will develop cancer. Veterinary oncology is a growing field, and when one treatment works on one species, it can lead to new tests and treatments for the other.
And specially trained therapy dogs have a way of helping patients battle cancer. They can boost mood and lessen anxiety for patients undergoing chemotherapy
Cancer treatments for dogs can help humans: http://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/alternative-cancer-treatment-pets
Therapy dog story: http://www.cancer.northwestern.edu/press_releases/2011/03_march/therapy_dogs.cfm