04/09/07 — Owners will honor pets at Relay for Life in May

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Owners will honor pets at Relay for Life in May

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on April 9, 2007 1:46 PM

For LeeAnn Boykin, Wayne County's upcoming Relay for Life will be about fighting for a cure for cancer -- and remembering loved ones of all shapes and sizes.

Mrs. Boykin lost her 12-year-old German shepherd Precious to cancer on Dec. 1, 2001.

She said the dog was like her child before she had children.

"She sat in the car like a person," she remembers. "She loved the snow and the beach."

Mrs. Boykin, 44, buys a luminaria each year for Precious -- her way of remembering a best friend and contributing to finding a cure for cancer.

"I do it in her memory because we loved her so much," said Mrs. Boykin, who had been Precious' "mom" since the pup was 6 weeks old. "Cancer is cancer, no matter if it attacks a person or a pet. We need to find a cure."

Suzi Wharton also knows the heartache of losing a pet to cancer. Her short hair domestic cat, Marble, died in 2005.

She remembers the day she had to say goodbye.

"I know that he knew I was there," she said. "He was part of my family. He had a happy life."

Black Dog also had a happy life for 17 years with her owners Tom and Dawn Potter. The Potters rescued her from the local pound in 1987 when she was 2.

Black Dog went everywhere with the Potters -- camping, to the beach, to family reunions.

The Dachshund mix died of cancer two years ago.

"We had to put her to sleep because her quality of life was not there and we were being selfish to keep her," Mrs. Potter said. "She got to where she couldn't walk and was blind and deaf.

"We took her to the vet one morning and I sat on the porch while my husband took her in. He held her as she passed away. It's a lot more comfortable when they are with a family member."

Every year, the Potters buy a luminaria in memory of their beloved Black Dog.

"We just felt we had to," Mrs. Potter said. "We've lost other friends and family members to cancer and we purchase luminarias for them, too. And our love for Black Dog was no less than it was for anyone else. Pets are gifts from God."

Brenda Robinson said her gift from God was her cocker spaniel, Barney. He died in 2003 at the age of 12.

"That was my best friend," Mrs. Robinson said.

It was extra hard on her because Wayne County's Relay for Life was held four days after Barney died.

"I bought him a luminaria," she said. "Every time I walked around that track and saw his luminaria, I lost it again. It just gave me another reason to work harder for Relay."

Luminarias for any animals that have battled cancer will be in a special place just for pets at this year's Relay for Life, which will be May 18-19 at Wayne Community College. Luminarias are $10 each and may be purchased by logging onto the Web site at www.wayneacs.org and going to the forms section, or by calling luminaria chairman Debbie Pennell at 736-3030.