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Benson the Beagle beats the odds to bark in the park

Hundreds of dogs are set to descend on Darlington’s South Park in a couple of weeks, to raise much-needed funds for St Teresa’s Hospice.

Bark in the Park will return on Sunday 23rd April, and for one dog the journey to taking part has been a tough one.

Twelve year old Beagle Benson was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma, a cancer which affects the tissue and nerves, which sadly resulted in the amputation of his front right leg.

Benson’s owner Niki Walker registered the pooch, and his Labrador brother Dufus, after missing the first Bark in the Park in 2016, and recalls the traumatic illness: “I wanted to do Bark in the Park after everything Benson has been through. After the cancer was discovered it was removed but after 9 months started to grow back, and was much more aggressive. Due to his age and because he has a heart murmur, there was no option other than to amputate his leg.”

Following the surgery to remove the affected leg, Benson ended up in intensive care after his heart rate plummeted due to shock.

Benson has recovered well, and is “happy all the time”, according to Niki, whose husband and mother will be joining them for the walk. “He has a real zest for life. He’s a very sociable dog, very chilled out, and loves dressing up so I’m sure he’ll enter the best dressed dog competition!”

Niki works for Darlington law firm Latimer Hinks, who are currently trying to raise £10,000 for the Hospice in memory of their colleague Helen Thomas, who passed away last year after a battle with cancer.

“Helen was receiving treatment, and support from St Teresa’s, at the same time as Benson, but she was always asking about him whenever we spoke”, recalls Niki. “I’m walking in memory of Helen and to help towards our target, and we’ll raise as much sponsorship as we can.”

Eleven year old Dufus has had his fair share of challenges, and has been going for hydrotherapy for six years due to hip dysplasia. The two dogs have a special bond, although Niki notes that “the dynamics have changed, and Benson gets a lot more attention now!”

Bark in the Park will see dogs of all shapes and sizes take a stroll for St Teresa’s Hospice. There is a small fee of £5 per dog to take part, and well-behaved humans are encouraged to come along for free!

In addition to the walk there will be stalls with doggy toys and treats, as well as food, drink and a raffle. All dogs will receive a goody bag and a rosette for taking part.

Jane Bradshaw, Hospice Chief Executive: “This is another heart-warming story and we are so glad that Benson is taking part to support the Hospice, as part of Latimer Hinks’ wonderful fundraising pledge – my Bedlington, Barney is looking forward to meeting him on the day!”

To support Benson and Dufus please visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Latimer-HinksBark

There is still time to register for Bark in the Park here.