Saturday’s American Cancer Society fundraiser in Eudora was kicked off with a slightly different tune — “Who Let the Dogs Out” by the Baha Men.
But it was a fitting song for an event that featured everything from toy dogs, such as chihuahuas, Maltese and dachshunds, to big dogs, such as long-haired German shepherds, a Great Pyrenees and greyhound.
The American Cancer Society was host to Kansas’ first Bark for Life event at Eudora’s Blackjacket Park where 69 dogs and their owners gathered. The fundraiser, which raised about $4,000, was a twist on the nonprofit’s traditional Relay for Life event, where dogs aren’t allowed.
On Saturday, dogs and their owners strolled around a quarter-mile loop, which included a hydration station with water bottles and water buckets and areas for making dog key chains, calendars and stepping stones.
Lillian Lockwood came down from McLouth with her two long-haired German shepherds and a Wheaten terrier. She listed her sister, mother and former dogs as all having survived cancer.
In the past, Lockwood had done walks raising money for both breast cancer and the Humane Society.
“It’s a great way to pull all this together,” Lockwood said. “You know a lot of research that goes to help people helps animals and vice versa.”
Also taking laps around the park was a dashing Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Max.
The dog had a special tie to cancer. He was given to Judi O’Grady’s daughter, Brooke, as a companion for the last 15 months of her life.
Brooke died eight years ago at the age of 15 after a five-year battle with Hodgkin’s disease. It was a fight that included three rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant.
Brooke received 12-week-old Max in June 2000 after arriving home from Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.
“When she found out she was dying, she wanted a puppy to sleep with her,” O’Grady said of her youngest of seven children.
A canine caregiver, Max was always there for Brooke, O’Grady said. During Brooke’s final days, he was even smuggled into the hospital wrapped in a blanket like a baby.
“He’s my caregiver now. He takes care of me,” O’Grady said.
Through Brooke, O’Grady became active in Relay for Life. Today, her efforts are focused on CureSearch, a partnership of the National Childhood Cancer Foundation and the Children’s Oncology Group. As a volunteer lobbyist, she travels once or twice a year to Washington, D.C.
When O’Grady heard about Saturday’s event, she thought it was a perfect fit for raising money for the cause and recognizing an important companion for those fighting cancer.
“It’s a fun, fun thing to do,” she said.