People and dogs have always had a special bond. Feel-good tales about people being rescued by dogs, dogs and humans reunited, and those about dogs who have been done wrong by humans are always among the top read stories on our website.
The bond between a human and a guide dog is even stronger: in many cases, the human’s life depends on their dog, which has been specially trained for a specific type of aid.
I’ve had the privilege of meeting a number of guide dogs over the years, including a couple who became members of my Girl Guide unit, some through Wounded Warriors Canada, one who used to hang out with his person at Full of Beans Café when it was open. Then there was Shadow.
I remember when Kayla Aolick of Port Alberni found out she was accepted for a seizure response dog. Her post on May 16, 2012, came up as one of Kayla’s Facebook memories on the weekend. She was so excited to find out she was to receive a dog through the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides. She went to Ontario with her mother Sheila for three weeks of training and on Oct. 3, 2012, Shadow came into her life.
Shadow, a golden retriever, was born in 2010 to parents Lexus and Fidel and had eight siblings.
Two weeks ago, Shadow got sick—really sick, really fast. There was no time to talk about retiring Shadow as a dog guide before Kayla had to make the toughest decision of her life. On the afternoon of May 6, 2020, Shadow died.
Shadow was different from other dog guides: he was a social boy, and if you didn’t pet him—which you’re not supposed to do when a dog guide is working—he would come to you. Whenever Kayla and Sheila would come into the office, or if I would see them at an event, Shadow’s whole rump would start wagging, and people would have to get out of the way of his tail. He would brush up against my leg (always while I was wearing black pants!) and I would always ask if it was OK to give him some love. Kayla always said yes.
Kayla said she got a life when Shadow came to her. He was trained to recognize when she was about to have a seizure, and to get help if they were alone. He brought independence and happiness to her, and let Kayla be Kayla.
He became well known in Port Alberni and beyond, from media coverage of events he attended as well as the charitable organizations that the Aolicks worked tirelessly with: Lions Foundation of Canada, Canadian Cancer Society, Purina Walk for Dog Guides, Coldest Night of the Year and more. Shadow was an ambassador for the Lions Foundation of Canada throughout his career: Kayla and Shadow started the first Walk for Dog Guides in Port Alberni in 2013.
He was well supported during a national campaign in 2015 for the “Better Together” award and won the inaugural award; for that he was inducted into the Purina Hall of Fame in Toronto.
He earned the titles of honourary Lions Club member and honourary member of the Alberni Valley Kennel Club. “He was the special guest dog at the annual Alberni Valley Dog Show for the last three years and loved to see the school kids visit,” Kayla said.
The Aolicks are having a tough time dealing with the loss of Shadow, who was more than just a dog. They have received so many messages, and thank everyone who has reached out.
Kayla admits she is lost. She and Shadow were a team for eight years, playing, making new friends and going on adventures. It was easy to tell that Shadow loved every minute of being Kayla’s guardian angel.
She knows his memory will continue. “Shadow was and always will be a voice for epilepsy/ seizure disorders, of which he was trained to work,” she says.
For now, Kayla says she is not ready to think about another guide dog for herself—but whenever she is, the school will have her at the top of the list. In the meantime she continues to raise money to sponsor a guide dog for another individual.
If anyone is thinking they would like to help out Kayla, she has been asking people to consider donating to Allwest Animal Hospital (www.allwestvet.ca) to help cover the cost of Shadow’s cremation. People are also able to donate to the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides (www.dogguides.com) in Shadow’s memory.