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12-06-2006, 09:16 PM
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For Immediate Release
Contact: Jamie Bishop, (402) 420-0909, Jamie.bishop@genia.com (http://us.f348.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=Jamie.bishop@genia.com)
Photos available at: http://www.pet4pets.com/media.asp (http://www.pet4pets.com/media.asp)

Iditarod Racing Team to Sport Charity Collars For Cancer

Karen Ramstead, a six-time competitor in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska , is joining in the fight to help find cures for pet cancer.

“All the dogs on my Iditarod team this year will be sporting bright orange Pet4Pets™ charity collars,” said Ramstead, an Alberta dog musher and Siberian Husky breeder. The collars are sold in pet stores, vet clinics and at www.pet4pets.com (http://www.pet4pets.com/) to support pet cancer research. Each collar sold raises $2 for the Animal Cancer Foundation.

The legendary Iditarod follows a 1,151-mile trail through deep snow, two mountain ranges, along the lonely Yukon River, and finally up the coast of the Bering Sea. The race celebrates the dramatic 1925 delivery by dog sled of lifesaving medicine for a diphtheria outbreak in Nome , Alaska .
When Ramstead’s team sets off from Anchorage this March, they will be joining the race to cure cancer in pets and people.

“Like many dog owners, we have lost a number of dogs to cancer. As I speak, Chester , one of my 10-year-old retired leaders, is living out his last days. It breaks my heart to watch as this once amazing athlete is beaten by cancer,” she said.

Ramstead spotted the charity collars at the vet clinic. In agony at Chester ’s diagnosis, she felt that sponsoring the collars was a way to honor her canine companion of thousands of miles of aching cold and exhausted jubilation.

Chester arrived in her life at a grim time in the winter of 1996/97. She had lost her father to cancer. Her husband, Mark, was out of work. The last thing they needed was another dog. But Chester stayed, and it was a turning point in their lives.

Soon Mark got a new job. They moved from Calgary to Perryvale, near Athabasca in Northern Alberta. And Karen, a Toronto transplant, got serious about the Iditarod, called The Last Great Race on Earth. Just to finish is a triumph of will.

She and Chester first tried it in 2000 but did not finish. The next year, they did. She was the first Canadian woman to complete the race. And Chester was a leader in the first team of registered Canadian Kennel Club Huskies to cross the finish line, she said.

In 2004, her team, led by Chester and her superstar leader, Grover, set the third-fastest time for a purebred team. As celebrities, she and Chester toured schools to teach youngsters about mushing. Chester loved kids, and they loved him right back.

“With his non-stop wagging tail and friendly Siberian grin, he made friends wherever we went,” she recalled. A handsome dog, Chester also won a Canadian Championship and is one of only seven Champion Siberian Huskies that have finished the Iditarod.

In January 2005, Chester retired from racing after a shoulder injury. He spent the winter of 2006 in New Hampshire and came home to retire.

Recently he was having trouble swallowing food. A lump appeared on his head. An X-ray, barium swallow and biopsy confirmed that Chester had advanced cancer and less than a month to live.

“Our once proud, strong sled dog has moved into the house so that we can enjoy every moment we can with him,” she said.

“Chester and I have traveled 20,000 miles together in harness over the years. We have conquered the Alaska Mountain Range, brutal storms, ice, overflow and more – but this is something that he and I can't beat.”

So this March her team will sprint across the frigid wilderness to honor the brave dog teams of 1925. And they will wear symbols of a great challenge for the 21st Century – to fight cancer, a disease that afflicts millions more pets than people.

Sponsoring the charity collars for the Animal Cancer foundation helps raise awareness that scientists studying pet cancer can also shed light on human disease and that many pets with cancer may benefit from new human cancer therapies.

“If telling Chester's story can help make it so someday another dog owner doesn't have to watch their dog go through this, I'm all for it,” she said.

For more information about Pet4Pets charity collars, visit www.pet4pets.com (http://www.pet4pets.com/).

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