Good Boy: Tucson dog, owner part of national cancer study

Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Taking part in a national study about cancer in our four-legged friends has a special meaning for one Tucson dog owner.

“Our first dog, Bailey, was a golden retriever. My first dog ever and unfortunately, he succumbed to the cancer that is so common in the breed," said Suzanne Garcia. “He literally was fine in the morning when I left for work and when I got home he wouldn’t go on a walk with me. In a few hours, he was gone.”

After losing her nine-year-old dog, Suzanne Garcia learned about the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study through the Morris Animal Foundation. The fourteen-year, $32 million study gathers information on more than 3,000 golden retrievers from around the country.

“It takes a lot of work from the owners and veterinarians to make it happen because we are gathering a lot of data as well as biological samples from the dogs," said Tiffany Grunert, President and CEO.

Participating dogs' owners work with their vets to compile data on the nutritional, environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors for cancer and other diseases in dogs. Garcia also has to send in biological samples, like blood, urine and hair, from her dog, Jack, Hero Dog #2830.

“If we can help another family avoid the sudden loss of a golden, or any dog for that matter, we’ll be part of that," said Garcia.

After losing Bailey, the Garcia family adopted Ginger. But, to be part of the study, they needed a pure breed golden retriever. Just a few months later, they found Jack, a four-generation pedigree.

While it may sound like a big commitment, for Garcia, it is a small role they can play to help future pet owners.

“He’s being Jack and I’m able to help fill in some information in the gaps and send it off, so we are just playing out part," Garcia said.

So far, Grunert said the foundation has collected more than 400,000 biological samples and hundreds of thousands of pieces of data.

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