2013-05-24 / Front Page

Pugnacious pups

Canines and cancer share close ties
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


Lori Sirois of Pug Rescue of New England was one of the presenters at greater Portland’s first Bark for Life, held Sunday in Bug Light Park. The pugs were joined by dogs of all breeds as well as dog owners for a noncompetitive walk, games, and various presentations. The event raised more than $11,000 for the American Cancer Society. (Jack Flagler photo) Lori Sirois of Pug Rescue of New England was one of the presenters at greater Portland’s first Bark for Life, held Sunday in Bug Light Park. The pugs were joined by dogs of all breeds as well as dog owners for a noncompetitive walk, games, and various presentations. The event raised more than $11,000 for the American Cancer Society. (Jack Flagler photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – Dogs have a special ability to read human emotions and react to provide comfort for their owners. For owners battling cancer, that companionship is especially valuable when going for a walk outside on the good days, or simply providing love and support after a chemotherapy treatment or specialist visit on the bad days.

Dozens of dogs, dog owners and dog lovers gathered at Bug Light Park in South Portland on Sunday, May 19, for greater Portland’s first Bark for Life fundraiser walk to celebrate the contributions dogs make in the lives of those fighting cancer.


“Hope,” the Bark for Life mascot, leads cancer survivors, caregivers and others with their dogs on the American Cancer Society Bark for Life walk at Bug Light Park Sunday, The event was held to call attention to the fact that dogs as well as people are vumnerable to cancer, with about one in four dogs dying from the disease. (Kevin A. Byron photo) “Hope,” the Bark for Life mascot, leads cancer survivors, caregivers and others with their dogs on the American Cancer Society Bark for Life walk at Bug Light Park Sunday, The event was held to call attention to the fact that dogs as well as people are vumnerable to cancer, with about one in four dogs dying from the disease. (Kevin A. Byron photo) The event, which featured a noncompetitive walk, silent auction, games and various presentations, raised more than $11,000 in donations for the American Cancer Society.

Kim Hansen was chairman of the volunteer committee that began planning and organizing Sunday’s event in January. After attending a Bark for Life walk in Bangor last year, Hansen said she was inspired to bring the event to southern Maine to both celebrate the companionship dogs offer to those fighting cancer and to remember dogs that have been lost to the disease.


Top, Roosevelt, who was born with a birth defect that prevents use of his front paws, belongs to Stephanie Fox of Portland, a volunteer with the New England Border Collie rescue. (Jack Flagler photo) Top, Roosevelt, who was born with a birth defect that prevents use of his front paws, belongs to Stephanie Fox of Portland, a volunteer with the New England Border Collie rescue. (Jack Flagler photo) “They offer unconditional love. They have absolutely no expectations of the people in their lives. They just want you to feel better,” Hansen said.

Lori Sirois of Pug Rescue of New England set up one A table to help people learn more about therapy dogs at the event. Behind the table, seven pugs available for adoption played in the grass.

Three of those dogs, Cuppy, Puggy and Sissy, visit area hospitals and schools as licensed therapy dogs, comforting patients at Maine Medical Center or playing with children at Long Creek Youth Development Center.

“People are thrilled to see these dogs, because they’re missing their dogs at home,” Sirois said.


Cuppy, Puggy and Sissy are licensed therapy pugs that visit hospitals and schools with their owner, Lori Sirois. “People are thrilled to see these dogs, because they’re missing their dogs at home,” Sirois said. (Jack Flagler photo) Cuppy, Puggy and Sissy are licensed therapy pugs that visit hospitals and schools with their owner, Lori Sirois. “People are thrilled to see these dogs, because they’re missing their dogs at home,” Sirois said. (Jack Flagler photo) Stephanie Fox of Portland, a volunteer with New England Border Collie Rescue, brought her dog Roosevelt, a therapy dog who provides comfort in a different way, to Sunday’s event.

Roosevelt was born with a birth defect that prevents him from using either of his front paws. Fox said breeders intentionally breed border collies with red and white fur together for rare blue-eyed, red puppies, despite the fact that dogs in the litter have a higher risk of defects.

Roosevelt rides in a wheelchair, and visits children in local elementary schools to teach them that having a disability is not something to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Fox said Roosevelt plays basketball and soccer with students during visits.


Right, staff member Julz Poirier passes out medals to cancer survivors and caregivers during Sunday’s American Cancer Society Bark for Life Walk at Bug Light Park. (Kevin A. Byron photo) Right, staff member Julz Poirier passes out medals to cancer survivors and caregivers during Sunday’s American Cancer Society Bark for Life Walk at Bug Light Park. (Kevin A. Byron photo) “The list of what he can’t do is much shorter than the list of what he can do. He can’t walk down the stairs face first,” Fox said.

Hansen, of Gorham, owns three mixedbreed dogs. She and the committee started their work in January to set up promotions, secure sponsors and contact presenters in preparation for Sunday’s event.

“Next year, we’re going to give it a whole lot more time and get the word out more. There’s a lot of room to grow, and room to make it very big,” Hansen said.

The committee set a goal of $20,000 in fundraising, which Dawn Emery of the American Cancer Society said was “really ambitious.” With the $11,000 that was raised, Emery said the American Cancer Society will fund free programs and cancer research that will benefit residents in Maine.

Bark for Life’s sister event, Relay for Life of Greater Portland, will take place at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 15 at South Portland High School. Three weeks before the event, Relay for Life participants have raised more than $40,000, according to the event’s website.

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