Dozer, viral half-marathon dog, raises funds for cancer research

WASHINGTON — Dozer is a 6-year-old Goldendoodle with a mission — to support cancer research.

You might remember Dozer. He became a social media sensation when he crashed the Maryland Half Marathon in Howard County three years ago and ran for about 11 miles. See the videos below.

Dozer, pronounced like bulldozer, seems like a normal dog. He loves the beach, loves to play catch and loves people.

But he’s been doing what people usually do — drumming up support for the annual Maryland Half Marathon in Howard County.

The May 10 race in the Maple Lawn community raises money for the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center in Baltimore. This year there will be a 5K and a fun run for kids.

“He’s so far raised over $50,000 to support the Maryland Half Marathon. He’s appeared at multiple events for us and has become one of our best fundraisers ever,” says Dr. Kevin J. Cullen, director of the center.

After Dozer’s 2011 run, the Goldendoodle became a “mascot” of sorts for the National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, says Jon Sevel, Maryland Half Marathon co-founder.

“People were just flocking to him. It was a natural to put together this fundraising campaign with Dozer’s blessing, if you will,” Sevel says.

Dozer’s social media presence

Michael Greenebaum, the other co-founder of the Maryland Half Marathon, describes the buzz about Dozer as similar to catching “lightning in a bottle.”

Dozer has a Facebook page, Dozer The Dog’s Fan Page, with nearly 16,700 Likes, and an online donation page to promote the event.

“We’ve had tremendous reaction to Dozer and what he’s done for us from folks across the United States, and really across the world,” Cullen says.

Dozer’s owner, Rosana Panza, of Ocean Pines, Md., finds the response to her “people- friendly” dog heart-warming and believes it’s become his calling.

“It’s such a good feeling to know what Dozer is doing for the hospital and cancer and people around the world,” says Panza.

Panza says Dozer’s Facebook page “adds a little spice to the race.”

She says the Facebook page also adds depth to the issue, raising awareness about the race and the center.

“At the end, it’s really to help cure cancer,” she says.

A dog that inspires others

Both Greenebaum and Sevel say Dozer has been inspiring to the marathon’s runners, who are often fundraisers.

“Many people fundraise in addition to running the race. We say tongue-in-cheek, ‘If a dog can do it, you can do it too,'” Greenebaum says.

Sevel says he uses the “if a dog can do it” line to get people to ask others for donations.

“People find it hard to raise money. People find it hard to ask for money. You really have to train them to be able to get over that little fear, to send that email out,” Sevel says.

The two men created what Greenebaum calls a “a run that’s meaningful and a good cause” after they were shut out of another race. The Maryland Half Marathon typically attracts about 1,600 runners. So far, 1,200 have signed up for this year’s event.

“In a climate where funding has been significantly cut for medical research across the country, the money that is raised is very meaningful. The money that’s raised goes directly to research. In the past five years, we’ve raised over a million and a half dollars for cancer research,” Greenebaum says.

Panza says it’s the “big kid” in Dozer is something that appeals to people.

She says he seems to know what’s going on when he is at fundraising events.

“It’s almost like he knows what he’s doing. It’s really weird,” she says.

Dozer’s “accidental run,” as Panza calls it, turned out to be what she needed to get involved.

Since his 2011 run, Dozer has attended all of the Maryland Half Marathons. No, he doesn’t run, but this year he will kick off a kids’ fun run with a bark.

“He’s a ham. He knows when to turn it on and knows when to give you the puppy-dog eyes and knows when to sit up straight. He definitely parades himself around really interestingly,” says Sevel.

‘They must be chasing something wonderful’

dozer (Courtesy Rosana Panza)

"Dozer’s Run" tells the Maryland dog’s story, but with a moral. (Courtesy Rosana Panza)

At the race Dozer and Panza will sell a new children’s book that’s been written about his adventure and will sell “paw-ographs” — doggy autographs.

Panza says 100 percent of the proceeds from the book “Dozer’s Run” and the $5 “paw-ographs” will be donated to the cancer center

Dozer; Panza; the book’s writer, Debbie Levy, who is a breast cancer survivor; and illustrator David Opie will be on hand.

Panza, who told Dozer’s story to Levy, believes the book, geared to 4- to 8-year-olds, will be one parents will want in their children’s libraries.

“It just tells the story of Dozer from beginning to end, his whole journey, and it’s through his perspective. It’s Dozer and his best friend, Chica, talking through the book,” Panza says.

In the story, Dozer tells Chica the marathon runners “must be chasing something wonderful” and he runs off to find out what it is.

The story’s appeal, Panza says, is the fact that it’s a true story and one with a moral.

The moral: “Don’t ever give up faith no matter where you’re at, no matter how little or big your trouble is.”

The book will cost $16.99 and will be available on Amazon and through Barnes & Noble.

“I’m going to give back to the center because they’re the whole reason we’re here. I really believe this is the reason this book came out — to give back to the center,” Panza says.

Sevel says Dozer’s book will bring a whole new round of fundraising to the cancer center.

“At some point there might be a seat on the board for Dozer,” he jokes.

Watch Dozer cross the finish line in 2011

Dozer gets his marathon medal

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