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June 5, 2017

It was a chance meeting on a park path that brought Marla Yetka to Morris Animal Foundation and the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. Out with her puppy, Snickers, the information shared with her didn’t just pique her interest, it seemed to be destiny. Having already lost two golden retrievers to cancer, Marla was keenly aware of the increased cancer risk that seemed to dog the breed.

“I knew I had to enroll Snickers – really to honor the dogs we lost already, but also to help future generations of all dogs through better understanding of risk factors that lead to cancer, as well as how we can better prevent cancer and other diseases that take our dogs too soon,” said Marla.

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study launched as a pilot study in 2012, and the race was soon on to enroll 3,000 dogs that would be followed throughout their lives – teaching and informing along the way. The study seeks to discover and better understand the genetic, nutritional, environmental and lifestyle risk factors in a dog’s life that may increase the risk of developing cancer and other major diseases.

The study is now in its fifth year, and the hard work is just beginning. Data collection, with millions and millions of bits of information, is constant. Managing the day-to-day communications to keep owners and veterinarians “compliant” with study requirements takes a small team – always reaching out, always encouraging, working to keep enrollment and compliance numbers at a high percent.

For Marla, being a participant in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is a labor of love – love for Snickers and for the dogs she’s lost. Snickers, who also is a therapy dog, is a hero in her eyes, as are all the dogs enrolled in the study.

“I tell everyone I can about the study; why it’s important, and about the work of Morris Animal Foundation,” said Marla, who volunteers for Denver Pet Partners with Snickers.

But Marla and her husband, Chad, are going one step further. In mid-June they are opening an urban winery in Denver named Bigsby’s Folly, for their first golden retriever. During the first four months of their opening, they are selling specialty wine bottles filled with dog biscuits to benefit Morris Animal Foundation, as well as providing a donation space on customer receipts, and, most importantly, spreading awareness about the Foundation and the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.

You can support cancer studies at Morris Animal Foundation as well, during our Unite to Fight Pet Cancer campaign, now through June 30. And, if you donate now, your gift will be matched dollar for dollar by Blue Buffalo Foundation, up to $50,000. Thank you!