Back to Stories & News

August 8, 2019 – Tracy Gibbons wasn’t able to sign her golden retriever Martha up for the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, but that doesn’t stop her from being a passionate supporter. After losing two golden retrievers to rare forms of cancer, she knew she had to support efforts to stop the disease from claiming more dogs. It’s why she gives to the Foundation’s National Dog Day campaign, benefiting the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.

“I said, ‘if we can’t be in the Study, the next best thing is to start sending them money,” and that’s what I’ve been doing,” said Tracy. “I want to keep people like myself, and our dogs, from having that experience again.”

Tracy fell in love with golden retrievers 30 years ago with her first puppy, Chloe. Like many golden retrievers, Chloe was a bit on the goofy side, good-natured and a great listener. At the time, Tracy did not realize that cancer was so prevalent among golden retrievers and had no idea Chloe was sick until she collapsed during a walk. Pancreatic cancer had robbed Chloe of so much energy she could not put one paw in front of the other.

After Chloe, Tracy welcomed Lucy. The two shared 11 years together and Tracy credits the pup with helping her get through the loss of her parents. Unfortunately, though, cancer struck again. For Lucy, it was in her lungs.

“My first thought was, ‘I can’t believe this is happening again,” Tracy said. “Then I started to wonder, ‘is there something in the air, maybe the water, that would predispose them to cancer?’ Hopefully the Foundation will be able to tell me some day.”

Her golden retriever Martha was young when Lucy died, and Tracy thought Martha could help answer some of those questions as a hero dog in the Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. The Study had already reached full enrollment, but that didn’t stop Tracy from wanting to help, and she became an enthusiastic donor.

“Anything that contributes to the longevity of my dog or other peoples’ dogs or solving this problem, is worth making an investment,” Tracy said.

The $32 million study is one of the largest, most comprehensive canine health studies in the United States. Following more than 3,000 golden retrievers throughout their lives, it seeks to identify the nutritional, environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors for cancer and other diseases in dogs.

Morris Animal Foundation and its supporters have made hundreds of canine cancer studies possible, even addressing pancreatic cancer. One donor personally funded an important study in 2013 to try and improve the prognosis of dogs suffering from insulinoma, a form of pancreatic tumor. Researchers at the Netherlands’ Utrecht University not only identified and isolated cancer stem cells to understand their biology, but they discovered how the cells evade chemotherapy and grow.

This allowed the team to use small molecules to successfully interrupt chemotherapy resistance and kill cancer stem cells in the laboratory. These findings were a significant leap forward and set the foundation for future clinical trials in dogs with insulinomas and other types of canine tumors.

If you, like Tracy, would like to support the Study, please make a gift during our third annual National Dog Day campaign. Gifts made by August 26, National Dog Day, will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $50,000, thanks to a generous, anonymous donor.