Hugging her six-year-old golden doodle Ryder helps three-year-old Isla Short of Deer Lake forget about being sick for a while.
Dealing with a cancer diagnosis means there will be plenty of stressful days for the person fighting the disease and for their family.
For some families, having a pet that is all but oblivious to the worry and concern and just wants to do what they can to infuse any situation with unconditional love is therapeutic in its own right.
The Short family of Deer Lake knows this quite well. Mike and Sarah Short have been dealing with the aftermath of their three-year-old daughter Isla’s cancer diagnosis for the past 21 months. Helping them get through it is their six-year-old golden doodle, Ryder.
“Ryder is not just there for us, but for Isla, too,” said Sarah. “She finds him so comforting as a friend and he makes her happy.”
The Shorts believe Ryder can sense Isla is not well and knows when she’s upset and needs a snuggle with her puppy dog.
Because Isla’s immune system has been so compromised by the treatment she’s been getting, it means she can’t hang out much with her human friends. So, having Ryder to play with and to cuddle is a great way to help Isla and her parents take their minds off hospitals, doctors, nurses and treatments.
For the first year of Isla’s illness, Ryder stayed with relatives while the family dealt with things in St. John’s. He would be eagerly waiting whenever they got a chance to go back home for a bit.
When Isla’s condition relapsed last December and they had to go back to St. John’s after a short time home, the family decided they would be taking Ryder with them this time.
“It was too much time away from him and we just missed him too much,” said Sarah. “She doesn’t realize it, but Isla has been missing out on so much regular kid’s stuff, the least we could do was bring the dog out for her and for us.”
The Canadian Cancer Society has recognized the important role pets can play in the lives of families coping with cancer. This weekend, the western Newfoundland chapter is celebrating canine companionship with its Bark for Life event in Corner Brook.
The fundraiser for the society is happening at the Sir Richard Squires Building parking lot Sunday afternoon from 1-4 p.m. There will be paw printing, a dog kissing booth, K9 police dog unit demonstrations by the RNC and RCMP, along with dog vendors, a runway show, pony rides and a barbecue.
Short said an event to honour the role of pets in the battle against cancer is a fantastic idea.
“When you’re going through something like this, anything that can bring a smile to your face, bring you a little bit of comfort or bring some happiness to your life in such a tough time is so important,” she said.
For more information or to pre-register for the Bark for Life event in Corner Brook, call 634-6542 or email community resource coordinator Janice Wellon at Janice.email@example.com.