Dogs get their day at Bark For Life in East Manatee

rdymond@bradenton.comOctober 1, 2012 

EAST MANATEE -- A Boerboel is a large and heavy mastiff-type dog bred by farmers in South Africa to defend their homesteads.

Although her homestead is in Parrish, where predators are few, Patty Rimer still seems to relish having a bodyguard like Clutch, her 8-year-old Boerboel.

"In South Africa, they protected the farmer's family against lions," Rimer said Sunday as she watched the totally laid back Clutch check out the roughly 80 dogs and 150 humans who attended the first Bark For Life of Manatee County on a hot and humid afternoon at Tom Bennett Park at 400 Cypress Blvd., near State Road 64 and Interstate 75.

"Two or three of these dogs could keep a lion at bay," Rimer added.

The foe that has crept into Rimer's life is breast cancer, a lion of another type.

But Clutch is doing his part. Rimer says she loves his calming demeanor. She seems totally at peace sitting next to him. Rimer was told by her doctor she was cancer free in 2008.

"He's a wonderful therapy dog," Rimer said, adding that Clutch also loves children and works with autistic kids.

Appropriately, Bark For Life was a unique American Cancer Society event to celebrate canine caregivers like Clutch.

The goal of the event was to raise, through food sales and other donations, roughly $4,000, said event leaders Steve and Sharon Litschauer.

"We'll know next week how we did," Sharon Litschauer said of the fundraiser, which many hope will become an annual event.

"I think the highlight of the day, for me, was seeing all the dogs lined up and the enthusiasm everyone had," Steve Litschauer said.

At about 3 p.m., humans and dogs on leashes began four laps around a sidewalk loop near the park's main pavilion.

Participants walked, or in the case of Julia Barringer, ran their dogs.

Barringer, a 5K runner from Bradenton, trains at GT Bray Park and Emerson Point with her Boston terrier, Sanchez, so it was just natural for her to run with Sanchez in the Bark event Sunday.

"He thinks he's a miniature greyhound," said Barringer, who, with Sanchez's help, has lost nearly 40 pounds.

"My dog is my motivation," Barringer said. "He keeps me going."

Bark participant Cheri Murray had stitched on her jersey the name of the family's dearly departed border collie mix, Emma Lou Murray, who died of cancer when she was 11.

The event sponsors included On A Shoestring, Suncoast Striders Walking & Running Club, Florida Cancer Specialists, Pet Supermarket, Florida HomeHeath and Fathers Eyes Photography.

Pat LeDuc and her husband, Terry Jackson, came up from Venice for the event. LeDuc works at Florida Cancer Specialists.

"We are all fighting for the same cause," said LeDuc who gets constant laughs watching her Maltipoo, Chloe, who she describes as a brat and a diva. "We're trying to celebrate more birthdays."

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686 or tweet @RichardDymond.

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