LAWRENCE — Cancer has claimed the life of the Vietnam War veteran who was willing to sacrifice his own life savings to get medical treatment for his ailing dog.
But friends of Robert Burke say his legacy will live on. The love he showed for his yellow Labrador retriever Shadow touched the hearts of thousands of animal lovers throughout the Merrimack Valley while his noble cause created something to help future generations of pet owners.
“More than a hundred animals have already benefited from the Shadow Fund,” Massachusetts School of Law professor Diane Sullivan said of the special account she and others were inspired to establish in the spring of 2007 after reading a column about Burke’s predicament in The Eagle-Tribune.
“He really loved his dog and loved to know that he was helping others. The proudest thing in his life was the Shadow Fund that was established because of what he did,” she said.
Burke, 66, a long-time Lawrence resident, died Monday at the Coolidge House in Brookline where he had been under hospice care.
During a March 2007 interview with The Eagle-Tribune, Burke said he was going to quit his job as manager at Papa Gino’s in Methuen so he could raid his 401K retirement plan and pay the $3,800 it would cost for a veterinarian to repair the torn ligaments in Shadow’s left hind leg.
Burke’s story moved Sullivan, who is in charge of the animal law program at the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover. She vowed she wasn’t going to let that happen. Spurred by students in her class, the law school set up a special fund for Shadow.
The school also teamed up with Dr. Richard Lindsay, founder of Andover Animal Hospital, who offered to perform the surgery if the school could raise $1,000 – less than a third of the price that a New Hampshire animal hospital said it would charge Burke.