The fight that reached a million . . . one dollar at a time

Oh, the stories — heartbreaking and full of sorrow, tender and full of hope, serendipitous and full of love.

Since founding Chase Away K9 Cancer in 2006, Cera Reusser has heard countless stories from across the country.  All with a common thread — the love of dogs who have fought or been lost to cancer of one form or another.  And all with this goal: to put an end to the dreaded disease that steals the lives of too many dogs — one in every three affected.   

Six years ago, this writer shared the story of Reusser and her dog Chase, a beautiful champion whose life was taken too soon.  The grief, anger, and ultimately the passion for this dog fueled Reusser to establish Chase Away K9 Cancer, a grassroots effort to fight cancer . . . one dollar at a time.

At events Reusser attended with her dogs, dollars were collected by pups wearing vests displaying this mission. Moving through the crowd, Smokey, another of Reusser’s dogs, would give a kiss for dollars tucked into his vest.

With time the cause got legs, spurring hundreds of events across the nation, from small happenings like bake sales and raffles to large-scale competitive canine events.

“If people can think it, they can do it.” Reusser says.

Today Chase Away K9 Cancer is a division of the National Canine Cancer Foundation (NCCF), still collecting donations one dollar at a time, still true to its roots. As it was at the start, every penny goes directly to NCCF, supporting canine cancer studies and research grants. 

Reusser still tears up when speaking of Chase. But her girl lives on through the foundation her memory started, as well as through Reusser’s current trio of black Labs — Rikki, Chase’s first-born daughter, is now 11. Elsie May, Chase’s granddaughter, will turn eight in a couple weeks. Olie, Chase’s great-grandson is nearing age three.

All three, who Reusser refers to as R-E-O, can be seen locally at dock diving, AKC and agility events, even 11-year-old, Rikki.  “It’s not about the titles or ribbons,” says Reusser, “It’s about dogs having fun and raising K9 cancer awareness.”

That awareness is a huge part of what Chase Away K9 Cancer is about. One campaign, for example, called Check Your Dog Day, asks owners to take a few minutes once a month to give their dogs special attention — doing a thorough head-to-tail, nose-to-toes examination, checking all over and noting any new or strange lumps or bumps and following up with the veterinarian if something looks, feels or just seems not right.

Early detection is key in successful treatment and prognosis of canine cancer.

Promoting the campaign through social media and at events, Reusser receives many notes from people who discovered a lump, had it checked, and found it was cancerous, but that after removal the dog will live.

“It is so gratifying to see the message being shared and getting out there and working,” says Reusser, who always exclaims aloud upon reading these notes: “Hey…Chasey, we saved one!”

Yes. One. One dollar at a time. For the love of dogs.

~ Epilogue ~

Nine years after the heartbreak of losing Chase, and forming Chase Away K9 Cancer, Reusser’s organization reached the milestone of one million dollars in donations. 

Recently, Sniff Dog Hotel hosted a Halloween party, matching all donations to Chase Away K9 Cancer. The evening brought in more than $2,000.

Vonnie Harris is a freelance writer, and operator of Pet Stop Pit Stop pet sitting services in SW Washington. She resides in Vancouver with Jessie (a yellow Lab), Pedro & Lorali (parrots), three chickens, and memories of Jake, her heart dog who recently passed on. Vonnie is “the face of Spot” at many Portland-area pet-related events, and the voice of Spot in social media outlets.