LETTER from BETSY HOLLAND
To the Editor:
The compassion and quick response of Good Samaritans makes a story of loss and grief bittersweet.
Pace was a guide dog trained to assist and lead people who are blind and visually impaired around obstacles found in daily life. Pace was Ken’s dog.
There are over 80 million working service dogs in America, but Pace definitely led the pack. He was a beautiful Golden Retriever. You may have met Pace and Ken on one of their walks on Main Street or maybe you shared a ride with them on an OPT bus.
Pace was extremely intelligent. He knew all the OPT buses by name. Ken would tell Pace which bus he wanted to ride, and even if the bus line up was out of order that day, his dog always led him to the right one. During the weekly shopping trips, Pace would listen to Ken’s requests and know which aisle to go to and where to stop for the item.
Ken trusted his dog completely. Pace remained quietly aware of everything in their surrounding environment. As they traveled together, he helped Ken cross street and safely navigated the sidewalks, alert to any obstacles. Pace’s service training ensured Ken’s independence, but it was their friendship that meant the most. Spending every hour of every day together, they developed a bond that was as strong as any.
One morning, Ken and Pace hopped on the OPT bus to Southside. There was Christmas shopping to start and Pace was looking forward to stocking up on carrots – his favorite treat. It was a typical day. Pace seemed to be feeling good. Then, just as they were completing their shopping, Pace looked like he needed to relieve himself. He looked uncomfortable. Ken took his harness off and Pace unexpectedly collapsed to the ground.
Ken needed help right away. He called his daughter but she wasn’t able to respond in time. He began panicking. Who else could he call? Unsure of what to do, Ken took a chance and called OPT.
Without hesitation, Jane Sapinsky dispatched a bus immediately and although it seemed like forever, a bus arrived in just minutes. In fact, as luck would have it, David Hotaling, the transportation director, and Gary Coons, driver of the Para-transit bus, were in the office when the call came in. Before Jane hung up the phone, David and Gary had burst out the door and on their way to help.
David Hotaling carefully scooped Pace up into his arms and placed him on the bus. Gary Coons drove directly to the veterinarian’s office. When they arrived, a gurney was already waiting for Pace.
X-rays showed that an artery had ruptured in his heart. Pace would require open-heart surgery. The pain and recovery time from the procedure would be too great for Pace to bear. Ken had to make a difficult decision. It had to be what would ultimately be best for Pace.
Without the combined support of the folks at the OPT, Ken would have been alone during a frightening and very tragic time. David Hotaling, Gary Coons and Jane Sapinsky demonstrated respect, compassion and quick responses when Ken needed it the most.
Pace was one in a million. Of all the service dogs Ken has worked with and shared his life with, Pace has been the hardest to lose.
Pace would have been 10 years old in January. He will be remembered fondly by all of his friends that shared the bus rides, shopped together in the stores, and visited on his daily walks.
Good boy, Pace. You will be missed.