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Tarra Joins the Effort to Improve the Golden Breed

Tarra is 1-year-old British Cream Golden. She’s alert, cuddly and minds everyone else’s business. Her interest in people will make her a great therapy dog, and she’ll test to start with Intermountain Therapy Animals (ITA) when she turns 18 months.

In the meantime, Tarra is already contributing to society through her participation in Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.

Most owners participating in the study are doing so to improve the health of Golden Retrievers—an estimated 60 percent of these dogs die of some form of cancer. Tarra’s owner Merilee Kelley, of Ocoee, Fla., is no exception. She knows about canine cancer firsthand.

Her black Lab-Golden Retriever mix, Kalua has survived six different types of cancer and none were related. Merilee’s first trained therapy dog, Erica, was a Golden-Labrador cross who died of a brain tumor in 2012 after being a Delta Pet Partner for 10 years. Merilee started and runs an affiliate of ITA in the Southeast and her own nonprofit READing Paws, which is an affiliate of ITA’s READ program. Through READing Paws, therapy animal teams go into schools to help children learn to read.

Because of her involvement in these organizations, Merilee has seen a lot of dogs with cancer. This is why Merilee chose a purebred Golden Retriever when she bought Tarra; she wanted a dog whose lineage was strong and healthy.

“I have worked with many Goldens who have had very serious health issues and are gone way too soon,” Merilee says.

Tarra’s strong lineage could provide some helpful insight to researchers working on the study.

“I know that I have purchased a dog from a line of Goldens that has had excellent health,” Merilee says. “I hope that the data obtained from Tarra can ultimately help other dogs retain their good health.”

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is the largest study ever conducted to improve canine health. We’re enrolling 3,000 purebred Golden Retrievers between the ages of six months to 2 years in an effort to prevent and treat canine cancer. More than 900 dogs are enrolled so far. Learn more at

Categories: Dog cancer
December 6, 2013