Bozeman K9 9K: Raising Funds to Fuel Canine Cancer Research

 Karin and Rylee

Karin and Rylee


Begin running north of your mid-30s, taking on a 7-mile leg of the original Lewis and Clark Marathon?

No biggie.

Run your own half marathon the following year?

You bet!

Challenge yourself to complete the 19-plus miles Bridger Ridge Run over steep and rocky terrain with your dog, Boone?

Heck yeah! Why not?

Raise $8000+ annually for national, statewide and local nonprofit organizations and dog-related causes?

Already done. Thanks to Karin Caroline.

I have nothing but the deepest respect for local superhero, Karin Caroline. I aspire to be more like her … that is … if I wasn’t a complete introvert ... or, if I liked to run. … My people are not runners.

Karin discovered joy in running in her own time. The joy came from taking on big challenges, one step at a time. Out on the trails with her dogs, through dirt and snow and trees is where the seed of a remarkable idea took hold; combine two passions, running and dogs, to do better for the world.

 Live from the K9 9K

Live from the K9 9K

Of all the running events in Montana, NONE allowed runners to participate with a leashed dog. She knew that other running and walking events across the country allowed dogs to run with their owners, so why couldn’t an active, dog-loving community like Bozeman? Karin decided to dig in and do the research, and in 2012 founded Bozeman Canine Classic (BCC). The first event was the K9 9K, and everyone—participants, sponsors and vendors went wild for it. I am proud to say my dog Jack and I were among the early supporters of the event. What I didn’t know was what this event would come to mean to me later on.

Why Canine Cancer Research?

Karin knew all along that she wanted to donate ALL the money after expenses to dog related non-profits. She chose three organizations: one national, really big cause (Canine Cancer Research), one state level, non-profit (K9 Care Montana), service dogs for veterans, and for families facing the challenge of autism), and one local cause (animal shelters, dog parks, GLVT etc.).

 David Riggs, K9 Care Montana

David Riggs, K9 Care Montana

Back in good old 1970, the average lifespan for a dog was a respectable 17 years. Today, it tops out at around 11 years, with nearly half of all dogs dying of cancer. Chemicals and toxins in the environment, poor quality processed food and over-vaccination top the list as potential contributors to this unforgiving disease. Organizations like the National Canine Cancer Foundation greatly need financial backing to fund initiatives for research, treatment, prevention and awareness before these numbers become even more upside down.

In 2009, Karin welcomed a new friend and running partner into her life, a sweet and energetic Chesapeake Bay retriever named Rylee. She was happiness on 4 legs as long as there was a trail in front of her. One day she came up lame after playing frizbee. The limp did not resolve, and an exam and x-rays indicated bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in her left front leg. Osteosarcoma presents with very subtle symptoms and is extremely aggressive, often metastasizing quickly. After careful consideration with the hope of extending her life from six months to up to three years, treatment involved amputation of her leg and shoulder, and four rounds of chemotherapy. She recovered from surgery like a champ, and within two weeks was back out on her favorite trail, her happy and spunky self.

As Karin’s sidekick, Rylee helped greet event participants, vendors and sponsors. During last year’s K9 9K event she was all happy tail wags and smiles, and I remember thinking two things, one; she was getting along incredibly well as a tri-pawed, and two; she, and far too many other dogs just like her, was the reason why we were all there that day supporting the event. Eventually, the disease moved into her spine and surrounding nerves, and in a heartbreaking loss, she passed away early this year. Rylee was a gift to Karin, and loved by many. To me, she will forever be a Bozeman Canine Classic ambassador, and a testament to the boundless resiliency of animals.

Why Get Involved?

My people are not runners. The only time I run is to run away from a bear or moose in the woods, or toward the taco bus parked in the old Gibson’s parking lot.

Because I have been involved in past K9 9K events as a vendor, promoting my work as an animal massage therapist, I have not had the opportunity to run (I mean walk) the course with my own dog. A few years ago I signed up to participate in a similar event benefitting a neighboring animal shelter. I persuaded (by force) my mom and teen-aged daughter to come along with me. My mom, dog and I walked the little over three miles in just under an hour. My daughter ran the 5K “to get it over with sooner.” At the finish, it didn’t matter if we were the actual rear of the pack; we had a great time, and felt accomplished and really good about supporting the people who work hard to help homeless and surrendered animals.

 Running not required

Running not required

This past New Year’s Eve, my own beloved dog, Jack, became a canine cancer statistic. Within 12 hours he went from what appeared to be a happy and healthy German shepherd dog, to dying from an acute bleed as a result from previously undetected hemangiosarcoma. The loss was unexpected and devastating, yet it somehow inspired me to keep using my gifts to contribute to the goodness of the world.

I feel quite honored to have been involved with Bozeman Canine Classic from the beginning, and hope to continue to support Karin and her cause even if only in a small way. I encourage you to do the same. The K9 9K is more than just a dog friendly running/walking event. It’s an opportunity for the community to make a really big difference together in the fight against canine cancer and other valuable causes. It’s a chance have fun and to learn—all in the company of like minded folks and their dogs.

Just about anyone can walk a mile, so come on out and join the party!

The 5th Annual K9 9K run/walk will be held on Saturday, May 20, 2017. The course is a 5-mile looped course starting and finishing at Bogert Park in Bozeman, MT. There will also be a 1-mile event, and a DOG festival following with vendors, games, raffle with prizes, food and more.

To register for the 5th Annual K9 9K run/walk visit:

To support the event, or find out more about BCC and how it can help you organize your own event visit: