If you are lucky enough, you will have at least one pet that will come along and change your life completely. For Karen Fullerton, Founder and CEO of The Sergei Foundation, Inc., her red-and-white Siberian Husky, Sergei, did just that. He was the very special four-legged companion who was there by her side for life’s journey. While it was Sergei’s life that made an impact on Karen, it was how Karen honored Sergei after his passing that has affected companion animals’ lives, as well as their owners, for the past ten years.
“I started The Sergei Foundation in 2009 after my husband and I lost Sergei. He had several health issues, but his loss was a shock,” states Karen. “Even though I knew we did all we could, I still felt so much guilt for not being able to save him.” The light for Karen that came out of the darkness of losing Sergei was a passion to help others who should not have to say that final goodbye too soon. She remembers thinking, “If I feel this bad after doing all that we could for him with veterinary care, imagine how people must feel who know there is a treatable solution for their dog or cat, but they just can’t afford it?”
Financially-driven euthanasia — when a decision is made because there are no financial options available for treatment — adds guilt as a stressor on top of grief during the already devastating time of having to say goodbye to a pet. “I wanted to alleviate that burden and lighten the load on the owner, along with helping to stop the unnecessary suffering of any pet,” states Karen.
The very next day after Sergei passed, Karen Fullerton started her efforts for The Sergei Foundation, Inc., a 501 (c)(3) non-profit with the mission to save companion pets’ lives by coordinating care for sick and injured dogs or cats, providing families with resources to obtain life-saving veterinary treatment.
The Sergei Foundation helps coordinate veterinary medical treatment for a one-time accident or illness for a family-owned dog or cat. Applications for aid are accepted online via SergeiFoundation.org and must meet stated income and past pet-care parameters. As a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, the funds that are granted for these situations all come from donations. “I didn’t start with a trust fund or any financial backing. This ‘foundation’ was in name only, because of the mission of granting funding for these critical veterinary services,” Karen commented. To help raise these funds, The Sergei Foundation is hosting its 6th Annual Triad Dog Games, a fun day of everything and anything DOG!
Since the Triad Dog Games started in 2014, more than $150,000 has been raised from this annual event to help save pets’ lives. In 2018, The Sergei Foundation added a Dog Games event at the NC coast as well, and both are now listed on the NCDogGames.com website. As the event has expanded and changed over the years, the Triad event has had its home at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds since 2016 and will be held on Saturday, May 18th, 2019, from 10am-3pm, rain or shine.
Watch or participate in dock jumping (which has always been a crowd favorite), disc, and agility activities. “We changed our disc event to the UpDog Challenge, which is much more open and friendly for local competitors to enter and try it out,” adds Karen. A sanctioned Flyball tournament is held in the indoor air-conditioned education building—a great location to cool off and watch this very fast-paced dog relay race. Speaking of races, pups 20 pounds and under who may not be as fast as they are treat-driven, can enter the Doggy “Daches.”
Admission is $6 and free for kids 10 and under. Drive in through Gate 5 off of Deacon Boulevard for free parking. Well-behaved, vaccinated, and leashed dogs are also welcome. Participation in events and the pre-“Games” 5K dog run/walk have separate, vendor-set fees. Visit NCDogGames.com for more details. Of course, there is plenty of fun for a spectator simply to watch these awesome dogs, visit great vendors, and grab a bite to eat! Best of all, it all helps to raise donations for a wonderful cause, The Sergei Foundation.
With a commitment to make a difference for people and their pets, Karen Fullerton has changed many a medical outcome that would have ended with the loss of the pet. “I am so grateful to everyone who saw value in our mission and supported our programs; they are truly the reason for the longevity and success of the organization. Helping more than 4,000 people and their pets over the years to have a happy ending during a possibly sad time is so rewarding,” Karen commented.