Golden Retriever participates in study

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Golden Retrievers may be popular pets, but experts say 60 percent of them develop cancer.

Photo courtesy: Linda Lang

There's a nationwide study to find out why.

Cooper is a dog in the Bismarck-Mandan area helping us learn more about cancer, and that's not even his day job.

Guy McCommon and Cooper are partners. McCommon is a retired therapist and Cooper is his registered therapy dog. They participate in events across Bismarck-Mandan, from reading with children at the library to de-stressing college students during finals week.

"I just feel very blessed to have him as part of my practice and my partner, and when I don't have him with me I feel like there's something missing," said McCommon.

Once a year, the family takes Cooper to an in-depth veterinary appointment and fill out a 750 question form. Questions on the dog's environment, diet, and activity. It's all part of the Golden Retriever Life Study.

"It was, we felt, a way to try to contribute and find out what's happening with Goldens," said Linda Lang, Cooper's mom.

McCommon and Lang owned two Golden Retrievers who died from cancer. Despite the loss, they still wanted Cooper and made sure to enroll him.

"We had such fantastic luck with them and they were so much a part of our family that we knew we couldn't go wrong in getting another golden," said McCommon.

"For us, we felt it was a way to honor the first two dogs that we lost by having Cooper in that study," said Lang.

The idea is that if, or when, the dogs in the study contract disease or develop cancer, the researchers can look back at the factors contributing to those illnesses. They hope to use the information to help future Golden Retrievers live longer.

Since the start of the study, more than 100 of the 3,000 dogs have passed away.

Fifty-two died of cancer.