Dogs with cancer receive donated KONG toy ahead of holiday season
CALGARY -- Debbie Samaska remembers the day her dog Yogi saved her life.
"When he was two years old he notified the kids out in Invermere when I was having a seizure and stroke," she said.
So when Yogi was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, Samaska vowed to do everything possible to help him.
"In July of 2017, when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, I couldn't not do anything to help him. I had to help him."
Yogi is now the longest surviving cancer patient at the VCA Canada Western Veterinary Cancer Centre.
Wednesday, Yogi and a half-dozen other dogs undergoing cancer were back at the clinic in the Beltline, though not for treatment this time. They were there to celebrate as Kali’s Wish Foundation and Kong partnered to deliver toys to local veterinary clinics.
During the month of October, Pet Planet stores, as well as VCA Canada Western Veterinary Specialist & Emergency Centre and Montgomery Village Veterinary Clinic, asked their clients and customers to purchase a toy for dogs with cancer. The money, $8 for each toy, went to support Kali’s Wish Cancer Foundation and KONG donated the toy to the hospitals.
"I think the KONGs really make sure that the owners are aware of what needs to stay forefront in everybody's mind, which is the dogs' quality of life and happiness," said VCA veterinarian Alissa Gunderson. "It just opens that discussion to keep that in mind for the owners."
A total of 660 toys were donated during the 2019 initiative.
Kali’s Wish Cancer Foundation offers support for dog owners, along with information to help them through the emotional rollercoaster from cancer diagnosis to treatment.
"We have volunteer vets," said Kate Smitko, executive director of Kali’s Wish Cancer Foundation. "So anyone can write us through our website at any time and ask a question."
"(Whether) they're not sure where to go, or they're just looking for a second opinion or third opinion, or their vet isn’t giving them the information they need, they can write us."
Smitko says the volunteer veterinarians will answer any questions within 24 hours. The foundation also offers peer support.
"There's a lot of really hard questions and trauma that families are facing and there's not a lot of support in that area. That’s where Kali‘s wish comes in," said Smitko. "We connect them to another guardian (pet owner), who may have faced, or is facing, the same type of cancer. You can really get some one-on-one support from someone who has faced it as well.”
Kali’s Wish Foundation was started in the early 2000s by Laura Leah English, founder of the Pet Planet chain. Her dog Kali died of cancer and she couldn’t find any information or support for herself or her family. She began the Kali’s Wish Foundation as an educational resource.
It has since expanded to offer direct support to hundreds of animal guardians going through the cancer journey with their dogs.