Girl with cancer gets biggest wish – competes in AKC Agility with her dog Bruiser

Many people with life-threatening illnesses, like cancer, feel an urgent need to accomplish goals on their bucket list. And while this list can vary from person to person, the idea of accomplishing something in the face of the disease is a statement within itself. One 12-year-old Oklahoma girl wanted to compete in an AKC Agility competition with her dog Bruiser.

Naomi and Bruiser

Sonja's Photography Source: Sonja's Photography

Bruiser is an Australian cattle dog who has adjusted nicely to his dual role as competitor and comfort dog. Vicki Boyer, who works with the Sooner State Kennel Club, heard about Naomi’s desire to compete. She is the one who reached out to K9 Manners and More, which was hosting the upcoming MASCUSA event.

Sonja's Photography Source: Sonja's Photography

“It’s something that we take for granted,” says Kim Sykes of the host venue, K9 Manners and More. “To be able to go out there and compete with our dogs. And the love these dogs give to us is just different. You can’t compare it to anything. The heart of that little dog going out there and doing everything that Naomi wanted is why we really love our heritage-bred dogs. [Bruiser] was bred to go and work a farm, but he’s versatile enough to be a family pet and be so athletic and agile.”

Helping the young handler learn the ropes

Sonja's Photography Source: Sonja's Photography

Boyer then took the next step, traveling to young Naomi’s home to give lessons and tips to the girl and her dog. In a show of how much it meant to her for Naomi to succeed, Boyer even loaned some standard agility equipment so that Naomi could work on her technique.

“I’m so impressed with how much Bruiser trusts Naomi and isn’t afraid to do anything she asks of him,” says Boyer. “Bruiser did all the contact obstacles. He performed every one of them like he’s done it millions of times, and showed no fear. I knew they could do it, I knew they would, and they did. It’s just amazing what Naomi has done with him”

Naomi’s neuroblastoma

Sonja's Photography Source: Sonja's Photography

Neuroblastoma, the type of cancer that Naomi has, is a rare form of nerve cell cancer that is most commonly found in children less than 10 years of age, Naomi’s cancer started in her abdomen at the age of three. Fortunately, she was able to get it treated and went into remission.

The cancer returned a year before she took part in the competition as a tumor behind her eye. Not sure what the future would hold, Naomi and her parents came up with a bucket list of things she wanted to do in case she didn’t make it. It was after Naomi’s father, Kevin, posted the list on his Facebook that Boyer became aware of it and offered her help.

Rewarded for her efforts

Facebook/Sooner State Kennel Club Source: Facebook/Sooner State Kennel Club

As for the competition, upon completing her initial run, she was awarded a ribbon form the AKC. It had been custom made with the words, “My First Agility Trial” printed on it. Bruiser also received an award of a blue monogrammed leash and collar. Her supporters hope that Naomi and Bruiser continue to compete in upcoming trials within her local area, should she have the strength.

Helping Naomi in her fight against cancer

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Sonja's Photography Source: Sonja's Photography

“It really was a great community effort,” says Sykes. “There’s so many people that are ready to help with further needs. The support of the agility community’s not going to end with this one trial.”

If you would like to donate to help Naomi in her battle against cancer, visit her GoFundMe page.