Her Glory/For a Special Friend - A Special Ride

by Nathan Oravec

“Kate used to love to go for motorcycle rides,” says Dr. Teresa Koogler of her best friend. She began riding in 1997, accompanying Teresa and husband, Robin, in a tailor-made trailer. “I’d be riding behind Robin and Kate, and she’d be looking back at me for reassurance,” Teresa recalls. “If we were at a stop light, she’d get so many looks from people in other cars. She’d be in her glory,” she smiles. “Someone was paying attention to her.”
Kate Koogler was a Rottweiler. “A very sweet Rottweiler,” prefaces Teresa. “She was my bud.”
The friendship began between Teresa’s freshman and sophomore year of veterinary school, when the burgeoning doctor brought Kate, an eight-week old pup, home. “We spent that whole summer together.”
Following graduation in 1994, Teresa entered the field in Frederick, Maryland, treating several furry friends there before launching her own practice, The Catoctin Veterinary Clinic in Thurmont, which she sold after two years to pursue regional work. Through it all, Kate was by her side. “I took her with me to work all the time. She got to know all of the staff and clients. She went everywhere with us. She liked to do whatever we were doing.”
“She was a really neat dog - and very smart. She had an incredible vocabulary. You really had to watch what you said around her. If you said anything that rhymed with creek, her ears would perk up. That was her favorite thing - playing in the creek. She had such a high need for stimulation. She got so much fun out of everything.”
“We just had this connection,” Teresa continues. “I always knew what she was thinking or needed. She was very special... a special, special friend.”
Kate Koogler was ten years old when she was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma, a variant of bone cancer, in February of 2002. On September 16, seven months after having her leg amputated, she passed away.
“I’m a vet,” says Teresa. “So I didn’t expect her to live forever. If she would have died at twenty from old age, it still would have broken my heart. I just hate having lost her to cancer. It’s such an awful way to go. Losing her leg was gut-wrenching,” her voice breaks, “but she adapted so well. She got more get-well cards and visitors after her surgery than I would have expected to get.”
“Losing her at twenty would have been horrible. But I feel robbed of that.”
Kate’s passing, Teresa says, brought home a tragic point. Ninety percent of bone cancers occur in large breed dogs. “And all to often,” she says, “in certain breeds. As a vet, I know that different dog breeds get different cancers. German Shepherds get hemangiosarcoma; Golden Retrievers get lymphosarcoma; Boxers and Bull Terriers get mast cell tumors. Rottweilers get chondrosarcoma. That’s not to say other breeds don’t get cancers, but in these breeds they’re way over represented. There’s gotta be something to that.”
“Losing Kate was such a blow - but what’s really crazy about it, is that from the time she was diagnosed until the time she died, I saw nine cases of bone cancer at the clinic. It felt like the cancer was going nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah... It made me that much more determined that I was going to do something.”
The Kate Koogler Canine Cancer Fund, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, was initiated immediately after Kate’s passing. Following the Kooglers’ participation in the Susan Koman Breast Cancer Ride, it was suggested that the couple establish a similar event in Kate’s honor. The fund’s first ride had its maiden voyage last year with a motorcycle convoy to Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, one of Kate’s favorite getaways. “We used to take her there every year. It’s a nice place for a weekend.” There, forty-two bikers raised $5,000 for bone cancer research in dogs - An incredible success.
This year, Teresa notes, the ride was scheduled in conjunction with Delmarva Bike Week in Ocean City Maryland, September 10-12. “Kate passed away on the sixteenth. We thought this would be a nice time to have it, to honor her memory.” Planning began early, she says, with The Princess Bayside Beach Hotel being contacted back in January to guarantee availability. On Friday, September 10, the ride will depart Frederick, MD for the beach, with a dinner and karaoke party scheduled for Saturday evening at the hotel. To date, Teresa notes, despite Bike Week hype, registration numbers have yet to surpass last year’s. While registration for the ride itself has closed, individuals can still attend Saturday night’s dance for a donation of $25 at the door.
“It is important people know that the fund, while meant to honor Kate and put a face on canine bone cancer, is operated by those who want to do something. We want to help other people who have been blessed enough to know a relationship like ours with Kate - so they don’t have to suffer such a horrible loss. If we keep one dog from having to go through that, then Kate won’t have died in vain.”
“If we could determine genetics, and then selectively breed against it - we could make a difference. It’s also easier to study genetics in breeds. It’s possible that this research has a great chance to impact human cancers, as well.”
Kate’s endearing portrait graces the gas tank of Teresa’s bike. It’s heartwarming that, in a way, she continues to ride today.
“I feel like I was meant to do this,” says Teresa of the fund. “I’ve had dogs all my life, but Kate was never a dog. She was so much more.”
For more information, visit www.katefund.org.