Executive Director Florida Keys SPCA

Did you know that nationally, 25 percent of dogs in shelters are purebred? One such dog was Bentley, a golden retriever, who was surrendered to our Key West campus four years ago. At eighteen months, he had already travelled from the puppy mill in Kansas where he was born to a pet shop in Miami and on to Key West. By then, that cute, fluffy puppy in the pet shop had grown into a rambunctious dog with little training and no manners. It so happened that our president, Jane Dawkins, has a particular fondness for goldens and had recently lost one. Her remaining golden, Tinker, another FKSPCA alumna, was missing her pal so Jane and her husband Chuck decided to adopt Bentley.

At the same time, the Morris Animal Foundation was still seeking 3,000 candidates for its Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, begun in 2012, the aim being to better understand the genetic, environmental, nutritional and lifestyle factors that may be contributing to canine cancer. Why goldens? The breed is particularly high risk for cancer development and it is estimated that more than half of all golden retrievers in the U.S. will die of cancer.

Bentley became #751 in the study. Each year, a large box arrives for his annual veterinarian visit to All Animal Clinic (thank you, Dr. Amanda Ziegler!) filled with everything required for Bentley’s exhaustive tests, including nail clippings and hair samples. Meanwhile, Jane fills in an online questionnaire that goes into minute detail about Bentley’s living environment, such as types of floor coverings in the house, cleaning materials used, his bedding, food, water source, treats, exercise and activity — and on and on for 80 pages!

Bentley’s owners are proud that he is part of such an important study. He just received the new bandana he’s wearing to mark the fifth year of the study. He would probably have preferred a box of treats or a tennis ball to mark the occasion but doesn’t he look handsome?