Barbara’s Story: Knowledge Is Power
A Note from Nancy K. Clark, CVT, senior study participant coordinator: I was giving a talk in California about the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, and during the question and answer session, someone asked me, “Why are you [Morris Animal Foundation] doing this study?” I guess I always assumed the answer was obvious. I thought about my own experience with canine cancer, and I thought about the many stories I have heard from the Golden Retriever owners in our study. I shared my story that day, and now I’d like to share one from a study participant, Barbara Branstad, from Wellington, Colorado.
As a Golden Retriever owner, I’ve lost several dogs to cancer, most of them to hemangiosarcoma. On a sunny September morning in 2000, my dog, Trek, woke up fine, had breakfast and played in the yard. By noon, I thought he was “not right;” by 3:00 p.m., we had rushed him to Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital; and by 5:00 p.m., he had passed away.
He was bleeding out into both the abdominal sac and the cardiac sac. I’d never heard of this cancer before and like most owners, I wondered if there was something I could have done. Had I fed him the wrong diet? Was it the pesticides on the lawn? Maybe the water he swam in was polluted from agricultural runoff. How could I have prevented this healthy 8-year-old Golden from dying at such a young age?
When I became a member of the board of directors of the Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA), I heard many stories similar to mine. Sadly, Golden Retrievers were dying in various parts of the country from various cancers. Could these diseases then have a genetic component? If such a component could be identified, could there be a test for it? Could breeders try to breed away from it? GRCA underwrote two separate health surveys and while the surveys produced some useful information, it became apparent that a parent club could not manage or fund the kind of comprehensive study that an organization like Morris Animal Foundation could.
I was excited when the Foundation launched the groundbreaking Golden Retriever Lifetime Study! It was within a matter of minutes that I signed up my Golden puppy, Sailor. He recently completed his second-year evaluation, and I have high hopes that Sailor and his fellow study participants will provide answers not just for Golden Retrievers, but for all dogs. Since science is also discovering the strong link between canine and human medicine, there may be benefits for our own species as well.
It is true that knowledge is power and the more we know, the better we can deal with the problems. If Sailor’s participation can further this knowledge, I’m glad to be able to give of my time to help.”
Morris Animal Foundation was founded because of one man’s love for animals and his belief that by funding quality veterinary science, a difference could be made in the lives of animals worldwide. One in four dogs over the age of 2 will die of cancer. In Golden Retrievers, the incidence is even greater—60 percent of Golden Retrievers will develop cancer in their lifetimes. We cannot make a difference if we do not try. We cannot learn more if we do not investigate. This is why Morris Animal Foundation is investing our time and our resources into this study. It is because of Barbara’s story. It is because of your story. And, it is because of our story. We love animals, we love dogs and we want them to live long, healthy, lives.
To learn more about Morris Animal Foundation and our other programs please visit morrisanimalfoundation.org.
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