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Dogs gather and walk with their owners against cancer. (Photo by Chris Frost)
Thursday, November 8, 2018

By Chris Frost


Port Hueneme— The Ray D. Prueter Pubic Library let the dogs out Nov. 2, as the Annual Bark for Life event brought dog lovers and their furry friends out to support cancer survivors and their families.

The event featured lots of music, camaraderie, food, a doggie costume contest and a dog walk against cancer.

The Bark for Life is a feeder event to the main Relay for Life event, scheduled for June 29, 2019, at Pacifica High School.

Tracy Sisson-Philips, event lead for the Relay for Life and Bark for Life in West Ventura County, said this is the seventh annual event.

Sisson-Philips said Port Hueneme has participated in the Relay for Life since 2009, and her involvement with the Bark for Life grew from that association.

“In 2018, we have combined with Camarillo and other cities in Ventura County to have a larger and more robust event,” she said. “The relay is a donation of what you can afford. We ask our participants to raise $100 to earn their event t-shirt. This is an opportunity to bring their dogs out. Normally relays are held at high schools, where dogs are not as welcome. This is an opportunity for cancer survivors to come down with their companions and celebrate some of the same things we do at the relay.”

She loves hearing about what the American Cancer Foundation (ACF) does for patients.

“They offer free rides to-and-from chemo treatments, a road to recovery program and the “Look Good, Feel Better” program where women get tips on how to feel better, in addition to the 24-hour helpline, 1-800-ACS-2345,” Sisson-Philips said.

Connie Kajefski from the Canine Adoption Rescue League (CARL) is a 14-year cancer survivor and wanted to participate in the Bark for Life.

CARL is a no-kill all-breed shelter in Santa Paula that is non-profit and operated by volunteers who help find homes for dogs. The group has foster programs where it will pay for food and any medical needs.

“My sister and I were helping with Making Strides, we helped with their organization, and we started volunteering with CARL, so we have done a combination, we brought dogs to the Relay for Life and combined the things that are close to our hearts,” she said.

Connie loves attending events and showing off the dogs, along with her “sidekick” Jill Peterson.

“I will get grief from my dogs when I get home because she will smell that I have been with another dog,” Jill said. “Sometimes it gets a little ugly.”

Attending the event was Flipper who is a Chihuahua, who his owner, Ventura County Volunteer Ed Fontilas, said is 100 percent cute.

“I came out here last year and decided to get Flipper out because he needs to see other dogs,” he said. “It is a good cause.”

Fontilas was not sure if Flipper wants to go on a big walk.

“He marches to his drum,” he said. “He will walk when he walks, and I will stop when he stops.”

Bri from Barking Good brought their furry friend Boom who is also up for adoption. Boom used to live on five acres with a pig and horse.

“We are a dog grooming and supply shop, and we sell dog food and other supplies,” she said. “We also work with Rosie’s Rescue, so from time to time dogs who need fostering or are up for adoption will stay with us so that we can show them off.”

She loves working with dogs and helping people and was a caregiver for six years and saw first-hand what cancer can do to seniors.

“For me, it is rewarding to be here,” she said.

Owner Jason Maharaj said participating in the Bark for Life is a no-brainer.

“We need to help our community, and this is not the only thing we have done in the past,” he said. “My mom is a cancer survivor, she had breast cancer, I was about 10 years old, and I saw how hard it was, but she survived.”

He said they are doing food color tattoos for dogs and $5 nail trims.

“All the proceeds are going to be donated to the American Cancer Society just to help them out because they do a lot,” he said. “Hopefully, we can do something about cancer.”

Dennis Potter brought his dog, a Greyhound named Raymond and said he lost two Greyhounds to cancer and wanted to support Bark for Life.

“We always have a good time, and this is a great event,” he said. “Raymond hurt his leg six months ago, and he does not walk too far anymore until he gets good therapy.”

Janice Garvin from CVC Federal Credit Union said she was happy to sponsor the event.

“We have dog treats for the dogs, treats for the people and clips for your dog food and chips,” she said. “I love representing CVC and letting people know we are here in the community.

The big winner of the day was Salty, a Yorkie mix dressed as the Goodyear Blimp.

“I made this costume for him,” Mom Laura Welch said. “He was freaking out coming here today.”

For more information, visit www.relayforlife.org/westvcca.