Yesterday the inaugural Puppy Up! walks to support comparative oncology research took place in twelve U.S. cities, including Fort Collins, Colorado, and through a number of "virtual" and impromptu walks. I've been involved behind the scenes with the Fort Collins walk, in honor and in support of both human and canine friends who have needed to deal with cancer.
The idea behind these walks is that cancer research that can be done with dogs benefits both the pups and humans. Dr. Rod Page, director of the Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University, was recently interviewed by Sarah Hansen for the Fort Collins Coloradoan (published November 6, 2010). As he observed, "We treat beloved pets, we don't perform lab experiments. . . . They get the same consideration that human patients get, the same level of care, the same sensitivity."
(The Coloradoan link may only be freely available for a limited time after the article's initial publication.)
What is learned through the animals' experiences turns out to directly benefit humans as well. I've heard a number of stories about people whose cancer treatments have been substantially more effective (in all ways) as a result of connections between their doctors and the docs at the vet hospital.
So we walked for the dogs and we walked for the people. As of a week before the event, about 250 people had registered for the local walk. Fort Collins "won" the fundraising effort (the decision date was the third week in October) and thus also earned the pleasure of having 2 Million Dogs founder Luke Robinson and his dogs, Murphy and Hudson, join us.
The morning of the event, I worked with Cynthia, who drove in from near Glenwood Springs, and her husky, Sky, to set up the dogs' water stations and fill the buckets and bowls. Then I tended the Puppy Up! sales table (which generated more funds for research), which meant that our Tussah, who doesn't like big crowds of people or dogs, could have a relaxed experience of the day.
During set-up, we had beautiful weather.
Calm in all regards.
We'd been concerned about the weather, because this is Colorado, and this is what November 13 looked like last year:
That's Ariel (with her beloved wheels), Tussah, and my daughter.
We didn't get snow yesterday. However, shortly before the walk was scheduled to begin the sky darkened and the wind began to blow. It kept blowing for several hours, until just after the conclusion of the event.
We had a good time anyway.
Here's organizer Claire Preston, managing not to be swept away while giving the introductory comments:
All speakers kept their comments brief, and the later ones abandoned the stage. The wind was serious. Later in the afternoon, someone who'd been flying a kite in the park got pulled off his feet and slammed into a tree. Fortunately, other than being stunned and shaken, he was basically okay, but for a while that was in question.
Luke, Murphy, and Hudson led off the walk, definitely undaunted by the windstorm (and smart enough not to have brought kites):
The rest of the participants weren't inhibited, either.
The stroller right behind Luke and his buddies contained two pups currently in treatment.
We think the walk ended up being a little longer than intended, because the signs marking the route blew away, but nobody minded. Here are some glimpses of the official tromp around the huge park:
It was only after I got home and looked at my photos that I realized how many dogs were wearing the green bandanas that indicated they had been or currently were being treated at the Animal Cancer Center.
Including Boon. . . .
. . . being towed in his personal transportation device by Connie Fredman, who provides home-away-from-home services for animals whose owners can't stay with them in Fort Collins while the critters are being cared for.
A few more photos:
The dog with the orange vest (and the human orange-clad arm nearby) in the photo just above is part of one of several Larimer County Search and Rescue teams who were present (I think that's Merlin). The search and rescue group recently lost a six-year-old canine member, Trace, to cancer and were walking for Trace and others.
Some folks drove all the way from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to join the closest walk in remembrance of a number of pups, honored on a wheelchair-mounted banner:
Husky Sky, meeting a new friend:
And Tussah, checking things out from her personal space (after I'd used a handy bundle of string to keep the t-shirts from blowing away):
I'm not, as I've said before, much of a fundraiser. I do better with behind-the-scenes jobs, like staying after an event and making sure the site is well enough cleaned that the group will be allowed to use it for future activities.
Yet I put up what felt to me like an ambitious fundraising goal, and as of the day before the walk I was, thanks to several anonymous donations, a mere $5 short of reaching that figure. I thought briefly about topping off with a donation of my own, but my finances currently argue in favor of in-kind rather than cash contributions. So I was surprised when a friend came up to me yesterday and told me I'd not only reached but exceeded my goal, through yet another donation.
All of the folks who pitched in to help with my fundraising page were anonymous, which I think is great, and I want to thank you here. It doesn't matter who does this work, or whether we get individual credit for it. It just matters that we get it done.
Luke Robinson's vision is the complete eradication of cancer. Soon. It's an ambitious idea, but so was his walk, with his dogs, from Austin to Boston . . . as is the thought that we can have a bunch of walks occur simultaneously across the country. He talks about the project being more about "friend-raising" than "fundraising," although clearly it is the latter as well.
Every little bit counts. When I signed on to help with this event, I knew I didn't have much time or energy or money to contribute. I also knew that I needed to do whatever I could. I never agreed to a task that I didn't think I could comfortably manage, and I didn't hesitate to say "okay" to things I thought I could fit around my other responsibilities.
And look what we all managed to do!
It was fun, too.
Even in the midst of a serious blow (check out the dogs' ears and tails).