Bark For Life: More than just a walk in the park

Julz and Bella, meant for each other

Julz Poirier invites all dog owners in Greater Portland who have been touched by cancer to join her and Bella, her beloved dalmatian, for Bark For Life — a spin-off of Relay For Life, an annual American Cancer Society fundraiser.

Julz was diagnosed at the age of three with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a type of bone cancer, and has endured many surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy. Now 30, she had been in remission for seven years until last summer. “I started getting migraines again,” she explains, “and found out the cancer is back in my bones. I already have two fake hips, two fake ankles, and I’m missing three vertebrae.”

Because the cancer is back, Julz has needed radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Bella helps makes it all a lot easier. She often goes with Julz to treatments and always offers up her love, unconditionally. “She’s been everything to me,” says Julz. “If I’m having a bad day she’ll curl up right next to me and give me lovings. She also gets me out of the house a lot more because she needs the interaction. I’ll get up and go for walks with her, which has helped my health as well.”

But, it’s not all about Julz. Thanks to her roommate, who thought a dog would be good therapy for Julz, they rescued Bella from a kill shelter in West Virginia.

Hello, my name is Murphy!

Bella and Julz  joined Murphy, another rescue dog, and his humans, Kathy and Jeff Douglas at Pet Life in Windham recently. They were there to invite shoppers to participate in the first annual Bark For Life of Greater Portland.

It takes place across the country, including in Bangor, and will happen at Bug Light Park in South Portland for the first time Saturday May 19 from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.

“This is about activating a group of people who are passionate about their pets and putting it toward a good cause, that’s really what it’s about,” says Kathy, who is a 15-year cancer survivor.

Rebecca Vose, who fosters rescue dogs, including Murphy before he went to live with Kathy and Doug, says they hope to raise $25,000 for the Cancer Society. In addition to raising money and awareness, the non-competetive walk event will honor all the dogs that provide loving care and “pay tribute to survivors and those we’ve lost to cancer.”

People will be able to write the names of their loved ones, human and canine, on hearts and bones, which will hang from a tree in the park. The Bark For Life event will also feature music, food, contests and give-aways. For more information, visit Bark For Life of Greater Portland’s Facebook page or the American Cancer Society web site.

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Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane Atwood was the health reporter on News Center 6. She's now a regular guest on the Morning Report. Before she became a health reporter, Diane was a radiation therapist/dosimetrist at Maine Medical Center. In 2000, she left the world of reporting to manage marketing and public relations for Mercy Hospital. In 2011, she decided to pursue a longtime dream of being a freelance writer and launched her award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.