Irondog race raises money to defray costs of veterinary care

sbarr@newsobserver.comFebruary 23, 2013 

— A pack of soggy-pawed dogs trotted, sniffed and barked their way down the course at Saturday’s Irondog race, a fundraiser to help people pay for pet care at the Veterinary Health Complex at the N.C. State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Nearly 200 people and dozens of dogs braved the rain to participate in a humans-only 5K or a 1-mile dog walk at the N.C. Museum of Art. The race proceeds go to the health complex’s Irondog fund, which provides $500 grants to qualified families to help pay for their pet’s care.

The second annual event drew animal lovers from all over the Triangle along with dogs of all shapes and sizes: basset hounds, retrievers, corgis, pinschers, German shepherds, terriers and more.

Laura Tweed, a veterinary technician who lives in Raleigh, walked with her dog Jo-Jo, a corgi mix in a red raincoat, and a friend’s dog, Taylor, a cocker spaniel sporting purple-and-pink plaid.

“I’ve seen it from both sides – being a client and someone who provides care – and any money you can donate really does help people who can’t afford veterinary care,” she said.

The fund got its start last year when Marcia Backstrom, an N.C. State veterinary intern from Michigan, suggested the Veterinary Health Complex begin its own chapter of Irondog, which is in its third year at Michigan State University.

“I thought I’d try it and see how it went, just to support the clients and help more pets,” she said. “It’s been fun.”

Backstrom, who now practices emergency veterinary medicine in Michigan, drove to Raleigh for the race and took home first place among the veterinarians who competed.

Karen and Carl Newton also were there with their dog, Tucker, who wore a white T-shirt announcing his status as the first recipient of a Veterinary Health Complex Irondog grant.

In June, the family rushed Tucker to the veterinary hospital with vomiting and extreme weakness. The veterinarians quickly diagnosed him with Addison’s disease, a condition that causes the adrenal glands to malfunction.

The costs of his care escalated into the thousands of dollars, and the Newtons said the Irondog grant helped lessen the financial and emotional burden on them.

“When you’re a dog owner, you’re at that point of how much can you afford before you can’t afford it,” said Karen. “If it’s a treatable disease, you don’t want to have to make a really tough decision.”

Since Tucker started treatment, Carl said he’s been a “healthy, happy, shedding dog” – and the Newtons wanted the race participants to be able to see what they’re supporting.

“Here’s what the cause is,” he said, holding Tucker’s leash. “Here’s what you’re running for.”

Barr: 919-836-4952

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