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Dog-walkers take to the park for 'Bark for Life' fundraiser Sunday

The Bark for Life fundraiser is planned for Sunday afternoon at Hamlet Park in Cottage Grove. Bulletin file photo

To most dog owners, the furry canine is an integral part of family dynamics. A best friend, member of the family. But, for dog owners battling cancer, they can be life savers.

For the last three years, the American Cancer Society Bark For Life has given cancer survivors, their friends and family members, and those in support of the cause another reason to walk their dogs. The organization's annual awareness event, similar to Relay for Life, puts paws to pavement at Hamlet Park in Cottage Grove this weekend.

"It's a great way to get the community together and meet other dog lovers while raising money for a great cause," event volunteer Dave Olson said.

This year, participants and their pooches are invited to an Old Fashioned Bark BQ complete with entertainment, puppy games and activities, and silent auction. The event, which has been held in Woodbury the past three years, made the move to Cottage Grove this year to take advantage of the ample outdoor space.

"There is such a great park system in Cottage Grove and we've never done it here so we thought we'd make the move," Olson said.

As a longtime volunteer with the organization, Olson, who is a dog owner himself, has a special connection to the event: his wife is an eight-year survivor of colon cancer and his brother-in-law is a breast cancer survivor. While the family did not get their dog Brady until after his wife finished chemotherapy, he said the family pet provides daily support.

"Our Yorkie does offer that bonding and connection," Olson said. "But, I know when we come home Brady is excited to see us. We do know that unconditional love of our dog."

Olson said he knows families who have had pets during the difficult times of cancer treatments and has seen firsthand how animals understand that their owners are in pain and can help ease their stress.

The Bark for Life Bark BQ event has raised more than $9,000 in the last three years, and Olson said the goal this year is another $3,000.

"I think what we have to remember is that dogs can be caregivers too," Olson said. "Many times they are staying home during long treatments and during the day. Why not do something for them to recognize them as caregivers? This is not only a way to raise money for the organization, but it's also a way to bring together people who have a passion for dogs."

For more information about the event, visit the south Washington County Bark for Life website at

If you go--The south Washington County Old Fashioned Bark BQ fundraiser is from 2-5 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at Hamlet Park in Cottage Grove. There is a $10 registration fee for each dog and includes a goodie bag of dog toys and treats. All proceeds raised go to the Relay for Life of South Washington County, which is scheduled for Friday, June 7, at East Ridge High School.