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Bark for Life gives paws to celebrate canine caregivers

This year's guest speakers will be Nancy and Mike Johnston who will tell the story of how their dog Chloe took care of them, and then they took care of her in return.1 / 2
The second-annual Bark for Life of South Washington County will be May 7 at Ojibway Park.2 / 2

When Nancy Robertson was diagnosed with cancer in 1999 she had up days and she had down days but the one constant was her cocker spaniel Chloe.

"My little dog never left my side," she said. "She would lay right next to me."

Robertson said she and Chloe got into a routine where every morning after her husband Mike left for work, Chloe would come lay in bed with her.

"She would lay her little head on my pillow and look at me with her beautiful brown eyes," she said. "I found it so comforting and felt such a sense of serenity during that quiet time with her."

During her battle with cancer and while she was going through chemotherapy and radiation, Robertson said Chloe taught her the important things in life.

"She didn't have to do anything special, she just had to be herself and be very loving and that really started me thinking on the things I was doing in my life," she said. "What she taught me during that time with her was to get rid of the busyness and chaos in life and just find that sense of peace every day.

"It really has changed the way I live because now I do take time every day to find that peace and serenity."

Mike, also a cancer survivor, received comfort from Chloe during his fight.

Robertson was able to repay the favor to Chloe just a few years later when the cocker spaniel was diagnosed with cancer.

"Cancer doesn't discriminate between species," she said.

During Chloe's three-month battle with cancer, Robertson said she would lay with Chloe in bed and take her to the park.

"I never got too busy to just spend some time sitting with her," she said. "I was able to help her and be by her side like she did with me."

Unfortunately, Chloe died three months later.

"I still miss her," Robertson said.

The Robertsons will share their story of Chloe during the second annual Bark for Life of South Washington County.

Bark for Life is a companion event to the Relay for Life of South Washington County to honor the canine caregivers.

"At Relay (for Life) we recognize the two-legged caregivers, but the canines have helped many people come through their cancer journey as well," Bark for Life co-organizer Dave Olson said. "When nobody else can be there, the dog is always by their side."

This year's event will be May 7 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at Ojibway Park. Cost is $10 per person. All proceeds from the event are donated to the American Cancer Society.

Last year's event drew 30 dogs, and their families, and raised $2,900.

During the event dogs and their families will walk the trail at Ojibway Park.

Cancer survivors will make the first lap.

Additionally, games, vendors and the Woodbury K-9 unit will also be at the event.

Olson said last year's event was such a success that they wanted to bring it back for a second time.

"It's a chance to raise overall awareness to help show that dogs can be caregivers too," he said. "Relay in general has put more of an emphasis on caregivers this year."

Olson said they decided to hold this year's Bark for Life in May, rather than August like they did last year, because it can act as a promotional event to the actual Relay for Life.

"People are still really more engaged in trying to fundraise," he said.

Olson said he has been promoting Bark For Life through the Relay for Life team captain meetings.

"Our goal is to get more participation this year," he said.

Olson said he is optimistic that this year's event will be just as big of a success as last year's.

"We're calling it a 'Pup Rally' this year," he said. "It's a nice way to get together and take the dog for a walk."

Robertson said all animal caregivers should be recognized, remembered and loved.

"I hope everyone has a special four legged friend, or two-winged friend, to bring joy into their life," she said. "Dogs are such great lovers."

The 2011 Bark for Life of South Washington County will be May 7 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at Ojibway Park. The registration fee is $10 per person. For more information or to register contact Dave Olson at

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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