Gaynor

Team Training February 2002

Closeup of Gaynor's face, wet after a bath, with big brown intelligent eyes and shining black fur, looking noble.
Gaynor came into our lives during the second week of February 2002 and died this past Sunday, May 18, 2014. She was fourteen years old. Gaynor met us during a Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) team training in Oceanside, California. Team training is where they match up dogs with recipients and train the humans about doggie ways. The teams stay in the dorms at the CCI facilities for two weeks and have classes all day and written tests at night. The trainers size up the recipients and match them to the right dog. At first Siobhan was matched to the wrong dog. It was when he growled aggressively in front of a trainer, Allison, that he washed out of the program. Gaynor had been selected as one of the possible dogs but her principle trainer, Todd, thought she might wash out because she couldn’t stand up to the early part of team training where teams were rotating through dogs and many beginner handlers were working the dogs. This made Gaynor nervous. If you’re reading this Todd, we will never forget the gift you gave of your time training Gaynor. Thank you CCI, an amazing organization, and thank you Todd, a great trainer.

Puppy Raisers

Gaynor was nervous, but Siobhan needed a dog, so Gaynor was pressed into service. By this time we were more certain in our commands, and Gaynor responded well to working with one team. When we were matched with Gaynor we learned about her puppy raisers. Puppy raisers play a big part in the CCI service community taking in puppies and raising them until they are ready for training. Gaynor’s puppy raisers came to the CCI graduation ceremony. We’ve visited them a few times with Gaynor in Flagstaff, Arizona, and owe them a big debt of gratitude. Here’s to all the puppy raisers everywhere, you are amazing! If you are reading this Cecile, Claire, Brett, and Dave, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the gift of your time and love in raising Gaynor.

Love Heels

Gaynor looking calm lying on bed next to Siobhan who is smiling broadly and clapping her hands.
The first night Gaynor stayed in a kennel in our room we made some time for Gaynor and Siobhan on the bed together. Siobhan laughed and clapped her hands and had a great time. Gaynor proved to be a rock of calm good sense. I often noted over the years that Gaynor was not a real dog, she was actually more like Nana, a dog employed as a nanny by the Darling family in Peter Pan. Gaynor bonded well with Siobhan and they went everywhere together. Siobhan and Gaynor were featured in a book, “Love Heels: Tales from Canine Companions for Independence” by Dean Koontz. We have given away a good number of copies as gifts. It’s amazing to read the stories of people who are helped by working dogs.

Canine Companions for Independence

Gaynor was a skilled companion dog. CCI also trains service dogs, facility dogs, and hearing dogs. Thanks to all the hard-working staff, the puppy raisers and other volunteers, the fund raisers, the donors, and everyone else who is part of the CCI community making it possible to give dogs to qualified recipients. CCI does a remarkable job and is also a remarkably healthy organization. Thank you CCI!

Re-Homing

Gaynor in back seat of car with gray muzzle looking very distinguished in her old age.

After many years of great service Gaynor started to tell us that she couldn’t work much longer. Finally she failed to climb some steps when out with Linda and Siobhan leaving Siobhan stranded at the top and Linda very worried. We attended a CCI graduate seminar where one of the topics was retirement and talked with CCI staff extensively before we settled on re-homing Gaynor. This was a very hard decision to make, but it was made easier when we found that a family who worked with Linda would take Gaynor. This way we could stay in touch with Gaynor and visit since she’d be living locally. The other options were to keep her or give her back to CCI. Keeping an older dog would add stress to a family already stressed to the max by caring for one family member with severe disabilities. Giving her back might mean she would live far away. We made the decision to re-home Gaynor. Thank you Cindy, David, Melanie, and Sam for giving Gaynor a place in your hearts and your home.

The Transition

We were worried about Siobhan’s reaction to life without Gaynor so we left Gaynor with Cindy, David, Melanie, and Sam on February 4, 2012, and the next day we were in team training where we met Harriet and that’s a story for another post. Where Gaynor hit her marks with ease and regularity, Harriet is a blithe spirit and part wild-live-monkey dog. Gaynor made quick work of packing up with her new family. When we went to visit a few weeks later Gaynor was not impressed with Harriet and was leaning up against Cindy like I didn’t exist. Gaynor was a leaner, when she wanted a rub she’d come lean against me. Some dogs are like that. Harriet is a leaner too.

Wagging Her Tail

Gaynor died this past Sunday. She was still eating but couldn’t get up very well on Saturday night. Her adopted family took her to emergency care Sunday and found out that she had cancer of the spleen and that a tumor had burst. They had her euthanized. She was still wagging her tail up to the end. I’ll finish this post with a photo taken on August 18, 2002, of Siobhan about to pet Gaynor. This is before Siobhan developed orthopedic problems which led to her wearing braces and big orthopedic shoes. In the photo Siobhan is in shorts and she’s wearing a Long Beach Island t-shirt sent specially by her aunt, Una, in New Jersey. Gaynor has just a bit of a resigned look in her eyes. She’d do anything for Siobhan but Siobhan’s idea of a gentle pet is a few sharp whacks. I like to think that in this picture Siobhan was very gentle with such a noble dog. Goodbye Gaynor, everyone loved you and we’ll always miss you.

Siobhan in shorts and t-shirt reaching out to pet Gaynor who looks at the camera with a calm but slightly resigned gaze.
Please join the conversation on Twitter at @blacktelephone

About Joseph Karr O'Connor

My father was the keeper of the Ballyheigue Light... married a mermaid one fine night. And out of the union, there came three; a porgy, and a porpoise, and the other was me! Yo ho ho, the wind blows free, oh for the life on the rolling sea!

Comments are closed.