Bark for Life

Pet dog has been a big help for fam­ily deal­ing with cancer di­ag­no­sis

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC - BY GARY KEAN

Deal­ing with a cancer di­ag­no­sis means there will be plenty of stress­ful days for the per­son fight­ing the dis­ease and for their fam­ily.

For some fam­i­lies, hav­ing a pet that is all but obliv­i­ous to the worry and con­cern and just wants to do what they can to in­fuse any sit­u­a­tion with un­con­di­tional love is ther­a­peu­tic in its own right.

The Short fam­ily of Deer Lake knows this quite well. Mike and Sarah Short have been deal­ing with the af­ter­math of their three-year-old daugh­ter Isla’s cancer di­ag­no­sis for the past 21 months. Help­ing them get through it is their six-year-old golden doo­dle, Ry­der.

“Ry­der is not just there for us, but for Isla, too,” said Sarah. “She finds him so com­fort­ing as a friend and he makes her happy.”

The Shorts be­lieve Ry­der can sense Isla is not well and knows when she’s up­set and needs a snug­gle with her puppy dog.

Be­cause Isla’s im­mune sys­tem has been so com­pro­mised by the treat­ment she’s been get­ting, it means she can’t hang out much with her hu­man friends. So, hav­ing Ry­der to play with and to cud­dle is a great way to help Isla and her par­ents take their minds off hos­pi­tals, doc­tors, nurses and treat­ments.

For the first year of Isla’s ill­ness, Ry­der stayed with rel­a­tives while the fam­ily dealt with things in St. John’s. He would be ea­gerly wait­ing when­ever they got a chance to go back home for a bit.

When Isla’s con­di­tion re­lapsed last De­cem­ber and they had to go back to St. John’s af­ter a short time home, the fam­ily de­cided they would be tak­ing Ry­der with them this time.

“It was too much time away from him and we just missed him too much,” said Sarah. “She doesn’t re­al­ize it, but Isla has been miss­ing out on so much reg­u­lar kid’s stuff, the least we could do was bring the dog out for her and for us.”

The Cana­dian Cancer So­ci­ety has rec­og­nized the im­por­tant role pets can play in the lives of fam­i­lies cop­ing with cancer. This weekend, the western New­found­land chap­ter is cel­e­brat­ing ca­nine com­pan­ion­ship with its Bark for Life event in Cor­ner Brook.

The fundraiser for the so­ci­ety is hap­pen­ing at the Sir Richard Squires Build­ing park­ing lot Sun­day af­ter­noon from 1-4 p.m. There will be paw print­ing, a dog kissing booth, K9 po­lice dog unit demon­stra­tions by the RNC and RCMP, along with dog ven­dors, a run­way show, pony rides and a bar­be­cue.

Short said an event to honour the role of pets in the battle against cancer is a fan­tas­tic idea.

“When you’re go­ing through some­thing like this, any­thing that can bring a smile to your face, bring you a lit­tle bit of com­fort or bring some hap­pi­ness to your life in such a tough time is so im­por­tant,” she said.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Hug­ging her six-year-old golden doo­dle, Ry­der, helps three-year-old Isla Short of Deer Lake for­get about be­ing sick for a while.

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