Canines fight cancer too

Caregiver is a term familiar to those who have themselves been or cared for someone afflicted with a potentially fatal disease such as cancer. They are the people who hold the sick when they need strength, who give them comfort when they feel alone, and the ones who bring us joy when we are in despair.

But not all caregivers care for us with their own two hands. Some do it with four paws.

In honor of the canine companions that help those with cancer who live alone or away from family, Exeter will hold its 3rd annual Bark For Life event this Saturday, Nov. 7 at the Exeter Bark Park. Cancer survivors, caregivers and community members are asked to bring their canine companions to the park at 9 a.m. for a noncompetitive dog walk through downtown. The first two years the event was held in the spring and was moved this year so it would not compete with the spring weekend event calendar in Exeter.

“It’s a lot of fun and we are hoping more dog owners come out and see what it’s all about,” said Bark For Life Committee member Rhonda Nash.

Nash, who works as the office manager for Dr. Gerald Haggard of Exeter Veterinary Hospital, said about 30 people and their pets attended the event last year. Among them was Melinda Brown, who participated in the first two years and is planning to attend the third. Nash said Brown is a cancer survivor who really relied on her two golden retrievers Ozzy and Ace to perk her up when she was down and calm her mind when she was upset.

A clinical study published in the Journal of Community and Supportive Oncology revealed in January revealed that therapy dogs may improve the emotional well-being of cancer patients.

Patients in the study, the first of its kind, experienced increases in emotional well-being and quality of life even when the patient’s health declined.

“There are a lot of studies that show the link between animal companions and emotional well-being,” Nash said. “We see it here at the office all the time.”

Stefani Woods, Chair for Exeter Relay For Life Committee, will be the speaker at Opening Ceremonies at 9:15 a.m. Following the speech, attendees and their pets will be invited to walk throughout downtown. The walk will make stops at three stations where professionals will give a brief presentation on different aspects of pet ownership. The cost of the event is $10 per dog before the event and $15 per dog the day of the event. All of the money raised is donated to the American Cancer Society (ACS) through next year’s Relay For Life in Exeter. If you have any questions regarding this event, contact ACS Staff Partner Kelly Milligan at or Stefani Woods at

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