Meridian Star

April 19, 2013

Furry fundraiser to benefit Relay for Life

By Terri Ferguson Smith / tsmith@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Tails will wag this Saturday from 2-4 p.m. when canines and their humans from throughout the area descend upon the Lauderdale County Agri-Center for the second annual Bark for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

    About 100 dogs have been pre-registered for the event, according to Dr. Diane Donaldson, a veterinarian with Till-Newell Animal Hospital in Meridian. Donaldson and Dr. Misty McNeil are part of the Paws for a Cause Relay for Life team, which is hosting the fundraiser.

    "We are very proud that we are having so many interested in this," Donaldson said. "We like to recognize cancer survivors as well as their caregivers, whether they be human or animal caregivers."

    Donaldson said about 50 percent of American families think of their pets as family members and since the healing benefits of pet ownership are well known, it is only natural that pet owners would want to include their furry family members in on the fun of raising money for a good cause.

    "Bark for Life also recognizes the benefit of pets as caregivers to their human companions. The health related benefits of pet ownership and the unconditional love provided to their owners is well documented," Donaldon said. "The benefits of this relationship can make a great difference in the mental well being and personal motivation of any person facing an illness."

    Numerous events are planned for the fundraiser. Registration for one dog is $20; registration for two dogs is $25.

    Raffle tickets will also be available for a Dyson animal vacuum cleaner and pet portraits by two local artists. Those winners will be announced at Relay for Life on May 3.

Registration for Bark for Life on Saturday will begin at 1 p.m. and the event will be 2-4 p.m.     Advance registration is encouraged by contacting Till-Newell Animal Hospital at 601-485-8049. This year the event will include events such as a silent auction, portraits with pets by photographer Karen Dean, face painting, pedicures, and pony rides. Pet contests such as best dressed, largest, smallest, best trick, and pet/owner look alike will be held with prizes awarded.

    Several other Relay for Life teams including Coca-Cola, MSU Meridian, Great Southern Bank, Meridian Home Christian Educators, Community Bank, The Bomb Squad and the NEW Cooperation will be on hand to provide food, custom made dog collars and leashes, dog treats, T-shirts, and fun activities. Luminaries will be available for purchase to honor pets and humans. The luminaries will be lit the night of Relay for Life 2013 on May 3rd  at Ray Stadium.

    Those who do not have pets to bring or who wish to leave them at home are invited to attend anyway. There is no charge for admission, but raffle tickets will be on sale for numerous items that have been donated.

    Donaldson is confident that pets will be just as well behaved this year as they were last year.

    "There were no altercations and everybody cleaned up after their dogs," she said.