By Amy Carlson NBC15 Anchor | Photographed by Shanna Wolf
Beth Viney says her dog Czar, a Great Pyrenees, was “one in a million.” He visited sick children at American Family Children’s Hospital as a Pet Pal for five years and could sense which patients had been diagnosed with cancer and made a special connection with them.
“I had Czar evaluated to be a Pet Pal since I had been a patient at UW Hospital as a child and missed my own dog at home. It was a way to give back because they saved my life,” Viney says of the hospital staff.
Czar officially retired from active duty at age 10. Six months later, he was diagnosed with bone cancer. Eventually, Viney says Czar’s pain was too much and his quality of life had diminished. As Viney held Czar before he died, she promised to find a way to help families going through cancer. Czar’s Promise was born.
The nonprofit organization started from Viney’s tremendous grief, a desire to help others on the same journey and hope to find a cure for cancer. Czar’s Promise takes a multi-pronged approach: seeking grant funding for canine cancer and pediatric cancer research, and providing financial support, education and awareness for families whose canines have been diagnosed with cancer.
Mark Reichers and his wife, whose Boston terrier Bacon was diagnosed with a high-grade fatty-cell cancer on his side, are among those that Czar’s Promise has helped. The group has helped pay for Bacon’s costly chemotherapy treatments. He’s got one more treatment left, Reichers says, and the prognosis is good. Being able to talk about the experience with others through Czar’s promise has been vital, Reichers says. “You wonder if you’re putting him through too much. Being connected with this community who’ve been through this whole thing meant a lot.”
Czar’s Promise held its first “Inspiring Hope Dog Walk” fundraiser this May, drawing 450 walkers and 200 dogs. The group raised over $88,000.
Proceeds will go toward animal cancer research conducted by the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, pediatric cancer research at the children’s hospital and financial support for families treating companion animals for cancer.
Viney promised Czar that she would never stop fighting to help stop cancer. It’s a promise she intends to keep.