It’s tough to find a dog owner who doesn’t love their pet. There’s a reason canines are called man’s best friend.
But for those who own service dogs, such as Kevin Frost, a dog can become much more than a best friend.
Through his athletics and speaking careers, Kevin Frost took his dog Nemo everywhere until this past October, when he went into retirement.
“The bond we had, it’s probably more powerful than a marriage,” Frost said. “He knows exactly how I feel, he knows exactly what I’m thinking.”
Nemo was put down at the end of December because of a blood clot in his spine, but the impact that he made on Frost, who is both legally blind and deaf but has some vision and hearing, will last a lifetime.
“Losing a working guide dog is devastating because you’re with them 24/7,” said Frost, who spent 10 productive years with Nemo.
Because he competes internationally in visually impaired speed skating events, Nemo was a huge source of independence, allowing him to get to training and around the rinks. Nemo, a black lab, walked with him everywhere. Frost can recall seven different times he can credit Nemo with saving his life by preventing him from being hit by a car.
“It’s an incredible bond,” said Steven Doucette, spokesperson for the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind. “It would probably be comparable to a parent and a child. The bond can actually be that strong.”
Frost said that Nemo, who went to live with an Orléans family after his October retirement, was well-known.
“He was well-known because of all the school presentations (I do); he was a very popular dog,” he said. “He was kind of like a guide dog celebrity.”
Because Nemo went everywhere with Frost, people at the athletic facilities and stores he frequented quickly grew to know the guide dog.
And like a true celebrity, Nemo was quite a traveller. Frost said he went all over North America and overseas to Germany and Scotland when he needed to compete in races.
The black lab went to more than 150 presentations in area schools, and was visible in Orléans as Frost walked from place to place.
After Nemo was put down, Frost and members of the family who adopted Nemo after his retirement had a memorial breakfast and scattered his ashes.
Frost is now on a waiting list to receive a new dog from the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind. Because he had a dog previously, and became accustomed to having one, he will have higher priority for a new service animal.
Doucette said that size, stature, walking speed, client lifestyle, places frequented and both client and dog personality are taken into consideration.
“It’s really done properly,” Frost said. “I want to go fast, I want to be efficient, so they know what kind of pace dog I want.”
He said that Nemo shared a bit of his goofy personality and liked to play pranks, earning himself the nickname Puddles.
Walking down a wet street, Nemo would keep himself dry, going around the puddle – but lead Frost directly through it.
To find another dog that fits as well with his personality will likely take six months to a year.
Once a new dog is selected, Frost will live at the Canadian Guide Dogs residence in Manotick for four weeks of training with the dog, who will become his eyes and ears.
It costs tens of thousands of dollars for a guide dog to be raised and trained properly and the organization is fully funded by donations.
“Guide Dogs gave me a life path to independence,” Frost said. “(Nemo) knew when I was down, and we had some wonderful times. Having a pet is the most amazing thing in the world. Having a service dog is even more than that.”
For information on Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, visit www.guidedogs.ca.