When Mugsy, Janet Heathcote's Australian shepherd, started limping before his 10th birthday, she assumed it was old age.

He got to the point where he didn't want to go outside and wasn't breathing well, she said.

Then a full-body X-ray showed an enlarged heart and other organs, and he was diagnosed with cancer that couldn't be cured with surgery.

Bright, energetic Mugsy was trained as a therapy dog, Heathcote said. He went to nursing homes, and the two started a reading program at Paul Smith Library in Shrewsbury, she said.

In memory of his caregiving nature, the North Hopewell Township woman formed Mugsy's Marauders, a team for Relay For Life of Southern York County. She also organizes an annual fundraiser called Bark For Life of Southern York County.

Fifth annual: The event honors dogs that have acted as caregivers, as well as dogs that have fought cancer, said Heathcote, who lost her last two dogs to the disease.

"It's just a good canine-friendly socializing day," she said.

The fifth annual event will be held rain or shine from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 17, at Country Comfort Kennels, 23 Kratz Road in Shrewsbury Township.

Since Relay For Life only allows service dogs to participate, Bark For Life is a way for furry friends to get involved in raising money for the American Cancer Society, she said.

The event: Participants and their dogs can register at the gate and bring in donations of any amount, Heathcote said. Organizers encourage at least $10 per dog.


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At 10:30, there will be a blessing of the dogs, followed by a lap around the facility's grassy areas and other dog-friendly activities.

Tribute "bones" will outline the path in memory of dogs that have passed away. The bones will also be part of the luminaria ceremony at the June 20 Relay For Life at Shrewsbury Elementary School.

Prior to the event, the $1 bones will be for sale at The Pet Shoppe in Shrewsbury and any of the three Country Comfort Kennels facilities.

For a small donation, dogs and their owners can participate in games like doggie limbo, musical hoops and a kiss-off, where the last owner being kissed by his pup is the winner, Heathcote said.

There will also be vendors, a Chinese auction and a chance to win a basket of dog goodies, she said. The rest of the day will be for socializing, eating and finding out more about Relay For Life.

"Basically, it's just a good day for people to have fun with their dogs and raise money for a good cause," she said.

- Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.