Retired Service Dog, Chester
Chester, a Shepherd Mix, came to Circle Tail from a family who found him running the streets. He was partnered with Bethany in April, 2003. Chester received his basic and advanced training at Ross and Chillicothe Correctional Institutes.
When I thought about writing “a little something” about Chester on the occasion of his retirement, I couldn’t figure out where to begin. Then I thought that I would begin, well, at our beginning.
Before I was partnered with Chester, I was so sick I was convinced that I would not live to see my 21st birthday. Then I learned that I had been approved for partnership with a service dog. It gave me something to cling to, and I made that birthday, and almost exactly one month to the day afterwards, in early April 2003, Chester and I met at Circle Tail and began team training. I knew from the moment I began to work with him that he was a truly special dog.
The last 8 years of partnership with Chet have brought me unbelievable joys, joys that I never imagined I could feel. Being diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety and struggling with it for almost half my life had narrowed my world to the point where I no longer had what I could call a life. When Chester came into it, he opened doors for me in so many ways (both figuratively and literally: he loves smacking those handicapped door buttons even though it’s not really a task I need him to do, but I let him because it makes me laugh to see him so happy and proud when he accomplishes his goal!) With him by my side, I began to go out and participate in life instead of being a bystander. Chet was loved everywhere he went; his wagging tail, soulful brown eyes and playful grin could win over just about anyone, and I ended up talking to more people because of him than I ever would have if I had been alone. He gave me the chance to educate people about how service dogs change lives, because he changed mine.
We went through a lot together. He was with me for my final year at Ohio State, where I was studying music education. He sat through classes, band rehearsals, euphonium lessons, brass choir ensembles, symphony performances, broadway-style musicals, and operas. He gave me the courage to step out again, and we rode the bus all over Columbus, exploring every corner of the city. When I had to leave OSU due to the progression of my illness, we moved home to Buffalo, NY and I spent the next 6 years doing odd jobs while trying to find my footing again. Chester was with me every step of the way, through several jobs, countless doctor visits and all sorts of bad and good days. Finally, in August 2010, I felt I was stable enough to return to school and enrolled at the University at Buffalo as an English major. Ches and I were college bound again, which meant living in an on-campus apartment, attending lectures and labs, and doing all sorts of fun new activities. Ches became the unofficial mascot of several of my English classes, and ended up with what amounted to his own special fan club… I always had to laugh because when people saw us it was always “Oh! There’s Chester!! … Oh, hi Beth.” I had to get used to coming in second, but coming second after that adorable furball wasn’t too painful because he was always pretty darn charming.
Even though he turned 11 in March of this year, Ches was ready and willing to work right up until the moment he was hit with the surprise medical issue that ended his service career. Every time that vest came out, his tail would start going, and he’d be bouncing in excitement, just waiting for me to snap the straps around him and clip on the leash so we could go on another adventure. That’s how he approached everything we came across: just one more adventure in a series of wonderful escapades on our journey together. He taught me a lot about how to look at life: if you see life as an adventure rather than a trial, and laugh when things go wrong instead of cry, and just pick yourself up and try again, then every single day, rain or shine, is a very good day. Chester has earned his retirement and then some. He truly saved my life, and I will never be able to repay him for that. He’s going to live out his retirement at my parents’ home, where there is lots of land and many critters and birds to watch, and plenty of things to sniff and pee on, and he will be showered with love and cookies every day of his life, just as he showered love upon me, and taught me that life isn’t something to be feared, but to be lived and enjoyed.
My little Bear, I can’t thank you enough.
Chester pushing the elevator button
Retired Signal Dog, Syd
Sydney (aka Syd), a Shepherd/ Lab mix was donated to Circle Tail in 1998 by a family who loved her immensely but could not keep her because of family constraints at the time. She was trained as a Signal Dog and placed with Angie, a women with a hearing impairment, in July, 1998.
Sydney was trained to alert Angie to sounds that Angie was unable to hear. Syd went above and beyond the call of duty every day. Besides the typical sounds that Syd was trained for, the alarm clock, phone, door, oven timer, and tea kettle, Syd notified Angie of other unique sounds such as the toilet that wouldn't stop running, traffic noises, the UpS truck down the street, etc. The two had a wonderful five years together exploring corporate America, a Monastery and studying for Angie's M.Div in California. Where ever the two went, Syd took her job seriously and was always alerting Angie to important sounds. When she and Angie lived in the Monastery together, Syd signaled Angie to an older woman in a room down the hall who had fallen and no one else could hear her weak cries. Syd made an positive impression on many people besides Angie.
Syd has won two awards that made Angie most proud -- 1) The Beyond Limits Award, as the top dog for the Central Region US in 1999. She was the first signal dog to be recognized by the Delta society for all of her great work including alerting Angie to the tornados in Cincinnati that tore through her neighborhood and 2) the L'Arche Tahoma Hope Community Companion Award in 2001 -- the first and only dog to win the award!! She was given the award for her great companionship that she provided at the spiritual retreats with Angie. Amazingly, Syd was able to bring one of the emotionally disabled man out of his shell and had him communicating with the rest of the community.
Unfortunately, Syd's health began to fail. Her kidneys and joints were not as strong and healthy as they were in her younger days. It soon because apparent that she could no longer keep up with Angie. The very difficult, painful decision was made to retire her. Syd returned to Circle Tail, and Angie was partnered with Caritas (aka Henna), a four year old Beagle/ Dachshund. Though grieving over the loss of Syd, Angie and Cari are bonding, and Cari is already signaling her to key sounds. Cari has big paws to fill, but so far, she is doing a great job!
Sydney was adopted by her original family, with the first mom and dad that she knew. They welcomed her back with open arms and are giving her the love and respect that she deserves after a job well done. We are assessing her health to determine what medical care is needed now and in the future.
Although Caritas took over Syd's job as Angie's new set of ears... Syd will never be replaced.
| Angie & Syd
Syd & her bunny
Syd in Utah hiking
Syd & Caritas
Retired Seizure Response Dog, Jesse
Jesse is Circle Tail’s second retiree. This good-natured Shepherd / Rottweiler mix retired from his job as a Seizure Response Dog in fall of 2003 around the age of 7.
Jesse came from the Clermont County Humane Society as a young pup of only 8 – 10 weeks old. He resided in a foster family for about 1 ½ years, where he learned basic obedience, house manners, and socialization. He then returned to Circle Tail for advanced training and was partnered as a service / signal dog in North Carolina. Unfortunately his partner’s life became unstable, and she was unable to utilize Jesse’s skills. So Jesse returned to Circle Tail and entered our prison program at Chillicothe Correctional Institute to begin training for seizure response.
Jesse was partnered as a Seizure Response Dog with Greg in August 2000. He was trained to pull an emergency cord in the house if Greg had a seizure, or when in public, to take a medical card out of Greg’s pocket and give it to anyone who will take it from him. Jesse was so well trained and bonded to Greg - he pulled the lifeline 5 times sending him to the hospital in the first year!
After Jesse’s partner had a stroke, he was no longer able to care for Jesse and utilize his skills. Now at approximately 7 years old, Jesse was ready for life as a pampered pet and was adopted into a loving home where he plays with his elderly canine sibling, gets stalked by the 3 resident cats, hunts "rabbits" (and the occasional misidentified leaf!) and seeks pets and belly rubs daily from his new mom and dad.
In his new family, his canine sister, Abby has taught him to be a real dog -- barking at things out the window, but his training is still very ingrained since he will respond to "quiet" unlike Abby and still "asks" to be allowed up to snuggle with his mom and dad on the couch.
Everyone now asks whether he can go get them a beer from the fridge... if you check out his smile, you know he could, but he will act like he never heard of "Retrieval" cause he is now living the life of luxury!!
Nevertheless, his new family loves him and reports that he is the best dog in the world -- they could not have gotten a better match for their family.
Greg & Jesse
Jesse... smiling in his new home! Retirement is grand!