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November 4, 2021 – When asked what her feelings are about entering her 10th year as a Golden Retriever Lifetime Study participant, Valerie Robson is quick to say “hopeful.” Valerie and Hero Dog Astro were among the first participants to enroll in the Study and she’s been an invaluable friend, cheerleader and volunteer ever since. Although Valerie has become one of the more recognizable participants in the Study, Valerie and her husband, Greg Vowels, were Morris Animal Foundation supporters years before the Study began.

Valerie first learned about the Foundation through a walk to support canine cancer research and “raising little bits of money here and there” for the Foundation’s canine health studies. It wasn’t long after Astro bounced into her life that Valerie read about a new Foundation-led study that was recruiting pilot dogs. It was clear the new project was a big commitment, but Valerie knew that she and Astro were ready to help.

“I was worried we signed up too late to be part of the first group of dogs,” said Valerie. “We were ecstatic when Astro was accepted as Hero Dog 11!”

Since she first enrolled in 2012, Valerie has been a tireless advocate for the Study, from phone calls to participants needing help, to testing new software, and helping manage the extensive “3000 Strong” social networking presence as a means of study retention.

In addition to the time and effort it takes to perform all the necessary activities associated with the Study, Valerie has given to the Foundation in other ways, too. Valerie is part of the Foundation’s Loyal Friends monthly giving program and generously donates during other campaigns as well.

“It feels good to be able to support Morris Animal Foundation as a whole,” said Valerie. “We give during Colorado Gives Day and during other times as well. All of it adds up to making not only a difference for the Study, but for other things they do and that’s important to Greg and me.”

Valerie remains hopeful that all the hard work she and Astro have done as part of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study will impact the lives of all dogs for years to come. But she admits there is a “whole piece of sadness with the hope,” as she sees beloved Study dogs pass away from disease, especially cancer. Despite the sadness, Valerie also notes a deepening sense of purpose in the remaining participants.

“I believe that every bit of information we give, whether that’s from our annual exams or biopsies or even necropsies, whatever it is, will make a difference someday in the lives of all dogs,” said Valerie.

Thank you, Valerie, Greg and Astro, for your continuing support of Morris Animal Foundation and the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. You are heroes to us all!