Dog lovers will help put a leash on canine cancer at a special fundraising walk Sept. 6 to benefit the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) Pet Trust Fund.

The Smiling Blue Skies Walk to End Canine Cancer is being held for the first time in Guelph, though the grassroots fundraising initiative began in 2001 and has raised more than $1.4 million since to advance cancer treatment and research at OVC.

The Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund was established by Suzi Beber of Victoria, B .C., in memory of her dog Blues. Supporters across Canada host several walks each year, but this is the first for Guelph.

Registration for the dog- and family-friendly event begins at 9 a.m. in York Road Park, located at the confluence of the Speed and Eramosa rivers near downtown Guelph. The 4.6-kilometre walk begins at 10 a.m. at the covered bridge. The event includes refreshments, a silent auction and prizes for those with the most pledges.

Amanda Raymond has organized the Guelph walk in memory of her dog Charger, who died of lymphoma last year. She and Charger had participated in the Toronto Smiling Blue Skies walk only a month before. A client of the OVC Animal Cancer Centre, Raymond hopes the Guelph walk will inspire others to help in the fight against cancer.

“When Charger died, I was looking for a way to make a difference and to find hope in the heartache,” said Raymond.

“I’m so grateful to Smiling Blue Skies and Suzi Beber for providing the opportunity to raise awareness and support the veterinarians and scientists at OVC who are working to find better treatments that will save lives and improve quality of life for our beloved pets with cancer.”

Veterinarian Chip Coombs, chair of the Pet Trust board of trustees, said the passion of Smiling Blue Skies supporters is contagious.

“For nearly 30 years, Pet Trust has been helping companion animals by raising funds to support innovative programs at the OVC to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting pets,” he said.

“One in four dogs will die of cancer and Smiling Blue Skies has been a key partner in our efforts to unlock the secrets of this terrible disease for the benefit of all species, including humans. Please join them in Guelph on Sept. 6 – your best friend will thank you.”

To register and download a pledge form for individual or group walkers, visit the Smiling Blue Skies 2014 – Guelph site.  Watch a video for more about Charger’s story.