Bark for Life fetches funds for cancer fight


Rescue poodle Casper, dressed as Elvis, won the costume contest at the Bark for Life event at Jefferson City's Memorial Park Saturday morning.

Rescue poodle Casper, dressed as Elvis, won the costume contest at the Bark for Life event at Jefferson City's Memorial Park Saturday morning. Kile Brewer/News Tribune

Dogs of all shapes and sizes romped through Memorial Park with their owners Saturday morning for the American Cancer Society’s first-ever Bark for Life event in Cole County.

The event was meant to celebrate the companionship of canines and the health benefits they provide to their owners.

Rebecca Johnson, keynote speaker at the event, said owning a dog benefits people because dogs love unconditionally.

“They don’t care whether you’re rich, poor, sick or well, they just love you,” said Johnson, a professor and director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

She said dogs also help motivate and inspire people to do healthy things, such as exercise.

“They also allow us to relax,” she said. “When we interact with our dog, our blood pressure decreases, our heart rate decreases, and we feel less stressed.”

Nearly 20 dogs and their owners attended the Bark for Life event, which included a walk through the park, an agility course for the dogs, photo opportunities and best costume and trick contests for the dogs.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Cole County Relay for Life, slated for June 2014.

“We’re just excited about the turnout we had,” said Laura Lindsey, who is in charge of publicity for Cole County Relay for Life events. “We hope to grow and build upon this (Bark for Life) for next year.”

Evan Backues brought Buster, his Maltese/Shih Tzu mix, to Bark for Life because when Evan was younger, his Nana died from cancer.

“I had been to Relay, so I came (here) because I wanted to support cancer,” Backues said.

When asked how Buster fared on the agility course, Backues said “she was too sissy to try it.”

Ginger Lute, a master groomer, brought her white standard poodle, Dixie. She had chalked some of Dixie’s coat the American Cancer Society purple.

Lute said she donated some gift certificates for the event.

“I have an aunt who died from cancer, so when I heard about this (event), I knew it was always good to help the cause,” she said.

Accompanying photo: Rescue poodle Casper dressed as Elvis

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