Kaua‘i’s canines lend a paw to fight cancer

PUHI — If the smiles and enthusiasm are any indication, there will be a Bark for Life next year.

About three dozen pet owners and their dogs helped raise more than $1,000 for the American Cancer Society on Sunday at Kaua‘i Community College.

“This is a really good event,” said Carol Ann Davis of Koloa who made the trip to the Puhi campus for the first annual event. “We’re both survivors so we’re doing what we can to support other people who are affected by cancer.”

Ricko Rask, one of the organizers, said she was pleased with the turnout of dogs and dog owners who braved the threatening morning skies.

“The human-animal bond goes beyond cancer,” Rask said.

“Pets, dogs and other animals provide tremendous support to patients with cancer.”

She said that in some instances, humans have to deal with cancer which affects dogs and pets as well, pointing out that in some cases, the humans share the same medications used on pets to treat cancer.

Gordan Shibao of Wailua had his pet dog, a cancer survivor, out for the walk.

“My dog is a survivor,” he said. “If you look at its left paw, it’s missing several toes because of cancer.”

Davis’ dog, sporting a specially made T-shirt for the walk, also is a survivor, missing one leg but attempting the walk.

“This is more people than I thought would participate,” Rask said as more residents kept filtering into the parking lot fronting the KCC Performing Arts Center. “This is a real grassroots event. We had no budget for advertising, so we relied on fliers and whatever we could do to communicate.”

The partnership with KCC provided an ideal path of a little more than a mile where the dogs and their owners could enjoy a nice workout, Rask said. The walkers left with one, or in some cases two, doggie bags.

Martina Hilldorfer of the KCC Culinary Arts program said she is a cat owner, but is already excited about possibly getting some of the culinary arts students to have a demonstration area for both humans and pets following the walk.

The turnout also indicated the need for more dog-friendly events where owners and their pets can enjoy time at different places.

Rask said she works on O‘ahu where the Kahala Mall has frequent dog-friendly events planned and is hopeful the Bark for Life event will demonstrate the responsibility of dog owners so other places on Kaua‘i can host dog-friendly events.

She said Bark for Life events on the Mainland are growing, and in Hawai‘i, this is only the second one, the other taking place on the Big Island last week.

Davis said she and her pet were at that event and her dog made the Honolulu newspaper as a result.

“I’ve already got some ideas on what we can do for the next one,” Rask said. “We got to see what worked and how to make it better for the next one.”

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