Response to the public campaign to help Burke was so overwhelming – it raised triple the money needed – Associate Dean Michael L. Coyne and Burke suggested a permanent fund be started to help people who cannot afford necessary medical treatment for their pets.
Burke’s determination to help his dog also inspired Sullivan to organize an essay-writing project at the school, which led to the publishing of a 2008 book titled “Please, Can We Keep the Donkey?” It became a major fundraiser that year for the Shadow Fund.
Dedicated to Burke and Shadow, the book includes a summary of their situation, as well as stories about animals rescued from shelters, from the street or by police.
Actress Betty White wrote the book’s foreword, which included a picture of the celebrity animal activist and her dog.
In an interview this week, Sullivan reflected on how Burke continued to be a hero to pet owners, even during his final days.
“There was a time back three or four years ago when I received a call from a young college girl who was in her last year of nursing school,” Sullivan recalled.
“Her dog was ill and she didn’t have the resources,” she said of the future nurse, one of dozens of pet owners who received financial assistance from the Shadow Fund. It turned out that she was the nurse was assigned to Robert at the hospice house,” Sullivan said.
The nurse learned about the fund from WBZ radio talk show host Dan Rea, an animal lover who has been an avid supporter of the fund.
In a 2007 interview, Burke called his dog Shadow “my only friend.”
“I gave up on humans quite a while ago. They have a tendency to hurt you and disappoint you. But dogs are always there. That’s why I’d do anything for Shadow,” he said.