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Fighting Cancer is a Family Affair

The Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is just one of the many valuable studies we support to help furry loved ones, like brothers Cody and Milton, live longer lives.


For Kristi and Chris Fiala, life just wouldn’t be complete without their Golden Retrievers. Like many, the Fialas got “hooked” on the breed when they got their first Golden, Maggie. Since then, they’ve welcomed Jack, Gracie, Cody, and Milton into the family.

Kristi and Chris also are passionate about training their pets as therapy dogs. Jack and Gracie became well-known figures beloved by the children at the Fialas’ local elementary school. The children practiced reading to the dogs and, like all Golden Retrievers, the dogs thrived on the attention. 

Tragically, Kristi and Chris lost Maggie to hemangiosarcoma, one of the most aggressive cancers recognized in dogs, and then both Jack and Gracie died of the disease in April 2015. The Fialas were devastated. They couldn’t believe it had happened again — and they wanted to know why. 

The Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study was conceived as a landmark longitudinal study to find risk factors for cancer and other major diseases that have so far eluded veterinary scientists. 

The study designers recruited purebred Golden Retrievers because they have a higher-than-average likelihood of developing cancer. Launched in 2012, the study reached full enrollment in 2015 and is already providing insights into the health of dogs. 

Not surprisingly, the Fialas are part of the study. They enrolled Cody last August, and their determination to participate only increased since Jack and Gracie’s passing from hemangiosarcoma. 

Researchers know that lifestyle can increase a person’s risk for cancer and suspect similar actions are at play in dogs, but they don’t know what those factors are yet. 

For the study, information is collected annually on every aspect of each dog’s life, from health issues to the environment they live in. Blood and tissue sampling is done each year to monitor health and document changes. 

All the data gathered will be analyzed and the results will guide the development of better strategies to help dogs avoid cancer and other diseases. To the Fialas, and dog lovers everywhere, that is reason to hope. Your donations support the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study and all of our programs that help ensure dogs like Cody and Milton, plus many other animals, live longer, healthier lives. 

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