December 16, 2019 – Marla Yetka first heard about the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study when she and her young golden retriever, Snickers, were on a walk in a Denver park. That moment changed both their lives, in ways Marla could not have predicted.
“We’ve always had golden retrievers and we’ve lost some to cancer,” said Marla. “I was taking a walk in the park when suddenly a woman just seemed to jump out of nowhere and it turned out to be Claudia Haworth, the wife of a past Foundation CEO. Claudia told me about the Study and I immediately knew I had to participate – it was a no brainer. We helped recruit one of Snickers’ littermates, too!”
The Foundation was actively enrolling golden retrievers at the time, and it was all hands on deck. For Marla, signing up for the Study was not only out of her love for the breed, but an extension of her work as an active volunteer with many local organizations. Beyond being a Study participant, she’s a valuable awareness and fundraising partner for the Foundation. Marla and her husband, Chad, own a craft winery in Denver named Bigsby’s Folly, in honor of their first golden retriever that died from cancer.
Marla and Chad host many events at Bigsby’s Folly that benefit the Foundation, from Yappy Hours and wine tastings, to their Annual Howl-O-Ween party. A portion of sales from their new portable aluminum bottles benefits the Foundation, and 100% of proceeds from sales of their biscuit bottles (dog biscuits in mini wine bottles) goes to the Foundation. Marla also is an ambassador for the Foundation, highlighting the work we do anytime she has the opportunity to be interviewed by the media or speak in public.
Snickers, now 7 years old, was enrolled in the Study when he was 6 months old. His check-ups had been going well until earlier this year. Marla found a small lump on Snickers, thought to be a tick bite, and requested the lump be removed during a routine dental procedure. Both Marla and her family veterinarian were shocked to learn that the mass was cutaneous hemangiosarcoma. Another surgery was needed to ensure that the tumor was completely removed and the good news is that Snickers is currently cancer-free.
Marla has high hopes for the Study. “Just to be able to provide information to get cancer at the source,” said Marla. “What do breeders need to know? As an owner, what are the right answers? There’s so much information out there for owners it can be overwhelming – what we really want to know is how can we help our dogs live their best lives?”
“I hope that in our small way we’re helping spread the word about the Foundation. We’re trying to educate people about the work you do, and what everyone can do to help.”
The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study depends on Study participants, like Marla and Snickers, to make the Study a success. As we make our way through our seventh year, we’ve come a long way but we’ve still got a long way to go. We appreciate how much time and effort our owner and veterinarian participants put into the Study and we’re immensely grateful.