Sound off: Can Island County have a Relay for a Dog’s Life?

By Kim Welch

Friday night I went to check out Relay for Life in Oak Harbor. I had never been before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I was surprised at how much fun it was and how upbeat everyone was. People that know me know that I’m not a rule breaker, but I did that night. I suspected that there weren’t any dogs permitted and I can understand why. All the chaos, dogs underfoot with the walkers and of course dog poop. Hey, I appreciate stepping in it as much as the next person, but I can assure you I had a bag in hand and I would have caught it before it even hit the ground. But I brought my 9 year old dog, Americas (aka Merry) with me. I just wanted to show her off. Merry is a 3-year cancer survivor. She had a nerve sheath tumor up in her right shoulder area. The cancer vet specialist told me her only chance was to amputate her shoulder and leg. I made that extremely difficult decision and so here she is, three legs and three years later, happy and goofy and really enjoying life. She is a true inspiration to all that know her.

Before we even got on the track a girl named Katie met Merry and literally took her cancer survivor shirt off her back and wanted Merry to wear it. How cool is that! Special shout out to our new friend! We found our friend at Team Jacob’s booth. Jacob Phelps is a three-year-old with brain cancer. I met his dad, Ben, who was sharing his son’s story. They raised $3,500 for Relay for Life and are now concentrating on raising funds for pediatric brain tumor research. One way you can help is to buy their cookbook, Recipes for a Cure, and also visit Jacob’s Web site, www.JacobPhelpsFoundation.org to find out more about pediatric cancer.

We decided to walk a lap and were approached by dozens of people wanting to pet Merry and asked about her. We were even chased down by one man, who said he just wanted to touch her for inspiration. My friend Michelle was in tears by all this special attention towards Merry. I, of course, was so proud of her. We were standing in the grass and a seemingly angry man marched up to me and said, “There are no dogs on the track!” I smiled and said, “She’s a cancer survivor!” I guess he didn’t appreciate my humor and stormed off. We decided to walk one more lap where we got more well wishes and a Relay organizer came up to me and said, “Even though I appreciate what the dog stands for, there are no dogs on the track.” I totally understood and off we went.

So, I’m wondering if in the upcoming Relays, we could include our family animal survivors in the event. Maybe a short tribute or a lap around the track before the event starts, then they could leave, not to interrupt the true event. Cancer affects us all, whether it be our beloved family, friends or our animals. Next to old age, it is the No. 1 cause of death of canines. Anyone interested, email me and I will try to organize something with the Relay Board. A great source of information for canine cancer is caninecancerawareness.org.

Cancer is not necessarily the end for our pets; Merry is, I know, an exception, but what a wonderful one at that. As for the angry man, I’m sorry if I upset you. Relax. Breath and let go. Let an animal love you! And Jacob, Americas and I are sending you all the prayers, love, hugs and licks your way! YOU, are an inspiration to me.

Kim Welch lives in Oak Harbor

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