Cinders – A Personal Retrospective by Randy L. Whynacht

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.
~ Will Rogers

As our profile information states, Golden Mountain Dog Solutions is named in memory of Cinders, valiant and trusty comrade, lost to us on 1 December 2006. In the truest sense, she was the catalyst for what would come to be a passion for Diana and me.

Cinders came to me in December 1994 at 6 weeks of age. She was a hybrid breed now known as a “Golden Mountain Dog”, resulting from the blend of Bernese Mountain Dog and Golden Retriever. An exceptional puppy, she took about 5 minutes to house train. She soon learned to identify her toys by name. If she watched me stash one I could take her away for hours and tell her to find it when we got back. She went straight for it every time.

As much as possible, I took her with me as I went about my business. She quickly absorbed what was expected of her and developed a professional persona that she turned on instantly whenever in the presence of a client or in the public eye. I began training her to search for and locate hidden objects and people as a way of stimulating her considerable canine intellect. She excelled at it.

When the snow wouldn’t stop on St. Valentine’s Day 1995, I cancelled my appointments and took Cinders for a walk. We were going to the post office but I changed my mind just before we left the driveway and took her to the Lunenburg Academy grounds to play ball instead. Where the northern edge of the school grounds border the Hillcrest Cemetery there is a section of evergreen hedge. When we were done playing ball, I called Cinders to me and as she was flopped on her belly munching snow, I put her leash on her and told her to heel as I turned for home. The leash pulled tight and when I turned around to see why I found Cinders staring at the hedge line about 60 meters away. The gentle wind was carrying big wet snow flakes slowly toward us and she was intently sniffing the air. I scanned the hedge row and could see nothing amiss, but since she refused to move I dropped her leash and gave her the command, “Find it!”.

Like a shot she was off. Reaching the hedge she scented along it until she came to a section that was trimmed in a high dome shape. Here she pushed her head into the brush, then suddenly backed up barking excitedly. The hedge came too close to the ground for me to see what she was alerting to so I led her around the other side in search of a better vantage.

Hidden under the hedge, sheltered from the better than 6 inches of snow that had fallen through the day, Cinders showed me an unconscious woman in her 20′s who, we later learned, had slipped away from the Addiction Services wing of the Fishermen’s Memorial Hospital, taken a near overdose of Valium, and then curled up under the hedge to hide from the world while nature took its course. The woman had been last seen at 11:30 AM; Cinders found her at 4:30 PM. The woman’s mother told me the next day that doctors at the ER gave her daughter no better than 30 minutes more before she would have been hypothermic beyond help.

Later, as I reflected on the series of seemingly random events that had brought Cinders and me to the exact place and time necessary for a distant life saving scent to reach her nose, her absolute insistence that she needed to show me something, and my trust in her, I knew Cinders had a mission in life. I decided then that she was going to work for real.

Photo at left – Cinders on a 1997 training operation. The picture was taken at the moment of discovery by a casualty simulation “victim” hidden in a brush pile.

Cinders went on to be my partner, and a valued employee of Whynacht Security & Survival, working numerous operations throughout her career. People lost and hidden, lost pets, the secret pathways used by vermin to enter a client’s house, she found them all. On top of that, she was my test dog for calibrating the animal immune security systems Whynacht Security & Survival is famous for.

Photo at right – The terrain didn’t matter. Cinders was sure footed and fearless. So much so that I gave her the nickname “Power Puff Girl”.

Photo at left – Always totally professional in the field, Cinders never forgot how to enjoy her down time.

When Diana first came into my life Cinders and I were still working together. Cinders was more than a little resentful at first but in the end, calmly and assertively, Diana won her over.

I ended up with not just one but TWO of the world’s finest females. You can see from the picture on the left that Dusty agrees.

Thanks to Diana, Cinders made a painless transition from working girl to retired Grand Olde Dame, making every year of her retirement a golden one.

To a working dog, work is fun; but fun doesn’t need to be work.

Nevertheless, work ages us all. In 2005 Cinders began to experience an increasing weakness in her hind end that the drugs she’d been on for years couldn’t arrest. On walks with Dusty she would get tired increasingly quickly so Diana searched the internet, finding a stroller that could be modified to suit. We drove to Halifax to buy it and soon Cinders could walk until she was tired after which we’d plop her in her stroller to be driven in style !

On 1 December 2006 we made the decision all dog lovers dread. Many thanks to Dr. Barry Falkenham and his staff at the Seaside Animal Hospital for the professional and sensitive way they handled our need.

As a means of working through our grief, Diana and I worked two months on a labour of love. The result was a short film titled “A Tribute to Cinders”.

On their death, persons of note are sometimes honoured with the flying of an aerial display called “the missing man flypast”. It simultaneously symbolizes the departure of the fallen comrade and the continuance of life by those they’ve left behind. The picture to the right is a still from the film, a DeHavilland Tiger Moth modeled in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 that I repainted for the purpose.

Another still from the film, the picture to the left shows “Sassy Cinders” beginning the “Missing Man” manoeuvre, switching on the smoke and pulling up out of the formation …

… Leaving the rest of us to soldier on.

So to conclude, we invite you to wrap up this retrospective on the life of an exceptional dog with a viewing of “A Tribute to Cinders”. This is the version we uploaded to YouTube so the quality is not as good as the DVD, but it will serve. Just press the play button and be sure you have your sound on.

 

5 Comments

  1. great story…made me teary eyed. Your dog Dusty looks my my Rocksea! Good job on the site.

    Reply

    • Thanks, Crazy UPS Dog Girl!

      We thought Rocksea looked a lot like Dusty, too.

      Glad you enjoyed, and leaving you teary eyed is great because it means we’ve accomplished our goal in conveying just how special and important Cinders was.

      Reply

  2. it is very good I watched this film after you left …. my eyes were teary too …. I’m looking foreward to meeting your Alsa ….

    Reply

  3. Absolutly beatyful,,I’m from Sweden and are not so good to write in English
    What a wonderful dog Cinders whas and still are
    Loe Inger

    Reply

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