Students, Community Join to Raise Cancer Awareness at ‘Bark for Life’
On Saturday, Sept. 30, local community members gathered at Rocky Gap State Park to participate in Western Maryland’s fourth annual American Cancer Society Bark For Life event. Ran by Relay for Life of Allegany County with assistance from FSU student organizations, this noncompetitive walk involved dogs and their owners in efforts to raise awareness and funds for those who battle cancer – both in humans and in dogs. Over $2,000 was raised by the end of the event.
“It has a dual purpose. One is the American Cancer society obviously raising funds for cancer and our mission, programs, services, research, etc. Over the years, we found that our events were not super dog friendly events, but dogs are often seen as a caregiver to someone going through cancer,” said Courtney Case, the Senior Community Development Manager.
Case went onto mention,“As their companion, the dogs have been with their owner throughout their struggle, but they couldn’t come to Relay for Life events since we didn’t have pets there. After realizing how dogs truly impacted those suffering with cancer, we started doing this event so that we could honor and recognize dogs who are caregivers to these people. We also provide information on canine cancer and how to prevent it, notice warning signs, and more.”
In addition to the two-mile walk along the scenic path of Rocky Gap, this event also displayed a few performances.
A rather notable act, the Western Maryland K-9 Search and Rescue, Inc. started the day off with a demonstration involving their nationally certified dogs. Featuring two “air scent” dogs, each wearing a bright orange vest and collar, the team released them to reenact a realistic search for a volunteer in the woods. Once the dogs located the missing person, they reported back to their handlers and led them to the specific location.
Claudia Weakland, a certified operational Wilderness Team member said, “This search and rescue program is 100 percent volunteering, and we are non-profit. We’re incorporated, but all of our members are strictly volunteers.”
“All of the dogs are our own personal dogs. My dog, Finn is certified nationally, but I am the only person allowed to search with him and he is the only dog allowed to search with me. We are certified as a team. If there is search and rescue in Maryland, it is all managed by law enforcement. Simply, law enforcement calls our dispatch number if they want to include us in the rescue of a wilderness area. We take our dogs and meet officials at a command post and search together”
The Western Maryland K-9 Search and Rescue, Inc. is located in Frederick, MD. For more information, visit westmdk9sar.org.
Various booths lined the site as they sold homemade dog treats, dog-themed decor, T-shirts, and other dog-related goods.
One booth in particular, ran by Laura Nawiesniak, caught the public’s attention after her speech regarding the various benefits and uses of essential oils. Nawiesniak included essential oil recipes not only for humans, but for dogs as well.
“For dogs you can use the oils to make shampoo, a mixture to clean out their ears, a cologne, etc. Some dogs suffer with anxiety, so in that case the owner can use lavender oils in the form of a spray or in an essential oil diffuser to calm them down. Dogs have very sensitive snouts, so this is a natural way to eliminate some harmful toxins in your home,” Nawiesniak told The Bottom Line.
The American Cancer Society’s Bark For Life of Western Maryland will be held again next September at Rocky Gap State Park. Visit http://main.acsevents.org for more details.