A Big Bark Out to Cure Cancer

A young cancer survivor, an outsized therapy dog and a contented customer inspired Heel Cancer, a creative cause marketing campaign launched by a smallish, Portland-based organic pet food maker.

Castor & Pollux, the maker of Organix pet food, has teamed with PetSmart and a tall, long-tailed Great Dane named Bentley to raise money for human and canine cancer research.

The campaign was inspired when Bentley's owner, who has fed the dog Organix since he was a puppy, told the company the amazing story of his brave young cousin in Nebraska.

The story began when Chase Caspersen's mother discovered a big lump on the 9-year-old's right forearm. The lump was diagnosed as a cancerous tumor and doctors feared amputation of Chase's arm may be required to save his life.

The boy's parents searched and prayed for another treatment. They found a surgeon at the University of Nebraska Medical Center willing to cut out the tumor and save Chase's arm. Chase underwent chemotherapy before his surgery to shrink the tumor to allow enough room to remove it without damaging nerves. The surgery was successful, preserving Chase's Little League baseball career. The 5-inch gash in his arm was patched using bone mass from a deceased 58-year-old female organ donor. Chase underwent more chemotherapy after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells and now is in remission, living a normal life.

While in the hospital, Chase interacted with service dogs, which provided one of the few bright spots in his painful days. To show his appreciation for the dogs, Chase cut up fleece blankets to make chew toys. That sparked the idea in his mind of making dog toys to sell to raise money for cancer research. Supported by his school classmates, Chase made 1,200 dog toys and raised more than $1,600.

Chase's cousin, Patrick Malcom, who lives in Colorado Springs, was so impressed with the service dogs that attended the boy, he decided to train his dog, Bentley, as a therapy dog. Bentley already holds the dog record for longest tail and is in contention for the Guinness Book of World Records title as tallest dog. Bentley is hard to miss.

Malcom told the story of his cousin's cancer and his super-sized therapy dog to Castor & Pollux because of his affinity for its Organix dog food. The staff at Castor & Pollux was alert to the potential of his story, and the Heel Cancer campaign was born.