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Pet lovers dig deep to let dog live

I've never owned a pet, never had the urge to.

The three mice my friends and I studied in high school biology class — two of which decided to feast on the kinder, weaker third — were enough for me.

I didn't cry for Old Yeller (trying to remember if I managed to hang on for the end of that movie) or for E.T.

But I have watched animal lovers in action, commissioning portraits of pets, carting them along on airplane rides, buying them Christmas gifts.

In the newspaper business, it's widely known that a story about an ailing man fighting for his last breath might yield a few responses from readers. Might.

The story of a lost cat, a sick dog?

A month ago, I wrote about Cary Hardin, a 39-year-old server working two jobs at a pizza joint and a diner, who went thousands of dollars in debt to take care of her dog, Buck.

He had cancer, and she wanted to do all she could to prolong his life. She started buying him organic veggies and meat and cooking it herself. She got rid of store-bought cleaners and anything else toxic at home, sensing they could be harmful to Buck. Then there were his surgery and chemotherapy treatments.

Apparently, hearts were tugged throughout Tampa.

The community has donated $2,800 so far for the 5-year-old wirehaired pointing griffon.

"It's unbelievable to me how generous people have been," Cary said.

If you'll recall, the whole thing started with a few of Cary's co-workers at Pinky's Diner on Bay to Bay Boulevard. After learning that Buck was sick and medical attention would cost about $9,000, they baked pastries at home and brought them to the diner, hoping customers would buy for the cause. The modest fundraiser was dubbed "Bucks for Buck." The City Times column came shortly thereafter.

Donations are still trickling in.

A brother and sister who looked about 9 or 10, Cary says, came with their mother and put their allowances in the collection cup.

An animal-loving business owner wrote a check for $500.

A hardworking man — a mechanic, maybe, Cary guesses — stopped by after work recently to hand over $5.

One customer, a regular at her other job at Cappy's Pizzeria, created a MySpace page for Buck (myspace.com/bucks4buck).

Others sent checks ranging from $10 to $100 by mail.

Donors tell Cary that they've had sick animals, too. They couldn't imagine what they would do if their bank accounts dictated their choice between paying for medical care or putting their pet down.

"They don't want me to feel like I can't treat Buck because I don't have the money," Cary said.

I checked in with her this week, just as Buck's four-hour chemotherapy treatment at Florida Veterinary Specialists ended. She was starving and couldn't wait to get home so she could whip up a quesadilla or fix a bowl of cereal. She had been tempted to pick up something at a restaurant while waiting on Buck's treatment to finish, but decided against it.

That was $5 saved and better spent on Buck, she said. She still plans to sell her 1999 Audi.

Doctors tell Cary that Buck is responding well to the chemo and that the cancer has not spread, so she is happy for now.

Some really smart people have studied the bond between people like Cary and their dogs. Anthropologist Brian Hare theorized in 2004 that the relationship throughout generations has actually caused evolutionary changes in domesticated dogs, enhancing their ability to interpret human behavior, such as gestures and commands.

This, of course, makes them seem more human, which endears them to people all the more.

I can understand that.

I saw a picture taken at the time of Hare's study. He appeared somewhat smitten — with his dog, Milo.

Pet lovers dig deep to let dog live 03/13/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2008 2:16pm]

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