Authors: Kelly Knaub
(DALLAS) -- It’s not easy to upstage Olympic medalists at their own sport, but Quinn the dog is getting ready to do just that in his second year as the “unofficial mascot” of Swim Across America in Dallas.
The 160-pound Leonberger, who is a natural in the water, has a lofty goal this year — to raise $10,000. Proceeds from the June 9 event will benefit the Innovative Clinical Trials Center at Baylor University’s Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center, where Quinn also works as a therapy dog, primarily with cancer patients.
Quinn and his handler, Peggy Walker, met a group of Olympians who were promoting Dallas’ inaugural Swim Across America at a hospital event.
“I said, ‘Leonbergers are great swimmers and they asked if Quinn would like to be in the function,” Walker said.
That day, the gentle giant, who has webbed feet that help him swim, posed with an Olympic medal around his neck. Walker was sold on the idea of raising money for the people Quinn comforts at his day job.
Although Quinn’s fundraising page wasn’t set up until a week before the event, he still managed to raise $4,000 from people he had touched in the community and Leonberger lovers.
During the swim, which has half-mile, one-mile and two-mile options, Quinn cheered on the participants from the dock before he took his own dip in Lake Ray Hubbard in front of an adoring crowd.
There’s no doubt Quinn could doggie paddle with great endurance, but organizers like to keep their star participant close to the shore.
“He’s a fairly competitive swimmer, so we don’t want him to get too far out in the lake,” said Jeanne Cunningham, co-chair of Swim Across America.
This year, Cunningham said younger participants may be invited to “get in and splash around with Quinn.”
Last year the event raised $360,000, and Quinn’s handler said she has no doubt her dog will do his part again.
“He’s there to bring smiles,” Walker said. “There’s something about Leonbergers that’s very, very appealing.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio