WILKES-BARRE – When a cancer diagnosis is given, patients who face a new sometimes terrible future will naturally lean on their families for support. They also garner a lot of support from their pets, according to organizers of the first "Bark for Life of Wyoming Valley" event on Saturday at Nesbitt Memorial Park. To give owners and their pets an opportunity to participate together in the fight against cancer and to recognize those pets that stay by their owners with unconditional love, the American Cancer Society organized the event along with members of the local Relay for Life Committee.
A loyal dog can offer a lot of therapeutic benefits for cancer patients, according to Desiree Thorne, manager of the local Relay for Life events for the Cancer Society.
Dogs are a part of the family and the society respects their value in helping patients survive, Thorne said.
The Bark for Life came about because dogs are not allowed at regular Relay for Life events due to technical and legal reasons, she said. So the society thought the Bark for Life would give them and their owners a chance to get together in their own event, she said.
The Bark for Life included several dog and owner teams who walked around Nesbitt Park, raffles, assorted dog treats and care products and a "Cancer Barked up the Wrong Tree" pet luminary in honor of pets who were lost to cancer, Thorne said.
"It's a canine event that helps in the fight against cancer," she added.
Russell Keeler, a member of the Relay for Life Committee, wants the Bark for Life to grow in popularity locally as it has in other parts of country. Allowing cancer survivors to participate with their pets helps the healing process, Keeler said.
The patients often say how important it is to them their dog is always there during their tough times, Keeler said.
Diane Sickler from Dallas brought Abby, a border collie, who was very helpful when she was going through chemotherapy and radiation therapy several years ago.
"I was too dizzy to do anything but live," Sickler said. "Abby was curled up at my feet all the time," she added.
"It's nice to know someone cares. Abby was watching over me," she said.
Keeler pointed out the event helped dog owners honor their beloved pets that fought cancer too.