His mission: no more doggy cancer

COSTA MESA — Ever since the dog died in Janurary, Joe Fuller, 11, has been wearing a blue shoestring around his neck to school with his German shepherd's I.D. tag hanging from it.

Sirius, or "Si" as the family called him, was a giant dog who could close doors on command. He died of lymphoma Jan. 2, only months after the family learned the 7-year-old pet was ill.

Losing Si was hard on the family, but it was Joe who decided to do something about it. He wanted to eliminate doggy cancer.

So Joe put together the March 6 Bark-A-Thon fundraiser walk around the Back Bay to raise money for the National Canine Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit that fundraises for cancer research, better treatment and better ways to diagnose the disease.

"I really don't think anyone has to go through the pain we did," he said.

Joe could only describe losing Si as "painful," before he ducked his head and teared up.

The family got Si as an early Christmas present about seven years ago, but it wasn't until Thanksgiving that they had any inkling anything was wrong.

Si had lost weight and when they took him to the veterinarian, the doctor found his lymph nodes inflamed. Tests confirmed that the dog had lymphoma, said Laurie Fuller, Joe's mother.

Treatment was prohibitively expensive for the family — about $5,000 — and was expected to prolong Si's life only by about six months, said Glenn Fuller, Joe's dad.

The day Si died, the family wanted to bring him inside from the rain, but he wouldn't get up on his own, Laurie Fuller said.

When they touched Si, he yelped in pain, and the family knew it was time for him to go.

"He was a big dog, so he had a presence," Glenn Fuller said. "He was like a third kid."

It was after Si's death that the idea to start a fundraiser came to Joe.

His older brother, Alex , 14, had talked about starting a fundraiser to raise money for Si's treatment when the dog was still alive, Joe said.

He decided to use that idea, but to help other pet owners, he said.

Joe said he hopes to raise $1,000 for foundation and already has received three checks.

About 20 people have signed up for the Bark-A-Thon. The family is preparing to post flyers around local pet stores and the Bark Park in Costa Mesa.

"I just hope that we reach our goal of $1,000," said Laurie Fuller. "I think we can."

If You Go

What: Bark-A-Thon fundraiser walk

Where: Back Bay Nature Reserve parking lot, 2301 University Drive

When: 10 a.m. to noon, March 6

Cost: $10 per person minimum donation

Info: http://www.wearethecure.org/friends/si

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