Panting for the cure |

Panting for the cure

Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/NEVADA APPEAL Toby Brown's Australian shepherd, Jake, age 7, clears a jump at the Pepper Memorial Classic dog-agility trials at Fuji Park Sunday morning. Brown travels from Jacksonville, Ore., every year for this event that raises money for research into canine cancer.

The winds were strong enough to stiffen a basset hound’s ears and the competition quick enough to make a greyhound blush at the fifth annual Pepper Memorial Classic dog-agility trials held at Fuji Park on Sunday.

About 100 dog owners and 110 canines – including a dozen or so mixed, but politely deemed “All American” breeds in front of their papers-bearing AKC counterparts – came from as far away as Hawaii to participate in the fund-raiser for canine cancer treatment and research.

“Through the competition and the silent auction, we raised nearly $9,000 last year for the Morris Animal Foundation,” said event organizer and trainer, Lin Battaglia, whose Shetland sheepdog, Pepper, was memorialized in the name of the contest.

Pepper died of lymphoma five years ago.

“Cancer is the biggest killer of dogs and cats,” said Battaglia. “Less than 2 percent of those animals diagnosed with lymphoma are ever cured.

The reason?

“Our pets are living longer these days,” she says. “We have better vet care and better food. Longer life leads to more geriatric diseases like lymphoma.”

“As far as we know, this is the only fund-raiser competition of its kind in the United States,” she added.

And after all, it was a competition, at least among the owners. The dogs seemed to be having the most fun.

Bernie Rapp of Placerville, Calif., led his Welsh corgi, Pimbroke, through the timed obstacle course. The dog snaked his way through a series of 12 upright poles into a doggie tunnel and over an A-frame obstacle. He paused just long enough at the height of the A-frame for an excited yelp before scampering down and leaping nose-first for the finish line, ears back, all four feet in full stride.

Border collie and agility competitor Chase was born without one of his hips, according to owner Gene Ross of Martinez, Calif. After intense surgery that tied a piece of muscle to a bone and a year or two of recovery time, he’s as good as new.

Maybe better.

“He missed out on a lot of his puppy-hood,” said Ross, after completing the course with the dog. “I think he’s making up for lost time.”

Chase jumped up then bowed down, hinting that he wanted some affection.

Ross patted him on the head and praised him.

“He’s only slightly spoiled,” he quipped, leading the dog into the warmth of an RV.

n Contact reporter Peter Thompson at or 881-1215.