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Over The Rainbow Bridge - A Celebration of life for Nayttor Tayttor (November 22, 2002 - August 21, 2015)

This was written by Nate and Louise Johnson.

I was born on November 22, 2002 at GDB California Campus. I joined my puppy family in February of 2003, and enjoyed my time there. I was very well loved and learned a lot with my puppy family.

I arrived back at GDB's California Campus for my formal training in February 2004. My trainer was Darren Walsh who was an apprentice at that time. I learned slowly, but I never forgot what I learned. My training at GDB was longer than other guides. I became ready for class when I understood what was required of me, as a guide dog.

The first time I was partnered in class, it didn’t work out for the two of us. I went back to the kennels to wait for my perfect match. My time in the kennels was special, as many different people including trainers, staff and volunteers spent countless hours with me. They played with me in the paddock, took me for walks, spent time grooming me and gave me the love and support I needed.

On January 12, 2005 I was taken back up to the dorm, to meet my new partner Louise. The circumstances of her life didn’t allow her to travel to class sooner. So I became known as “NATE MATE YOU AIN’T TOO LATE”.

* * *

I left for guide dogs on January 9, 2005. This next few days I wondered what dog I would receive and would they become part of my life, and my family's. On January 12 I received Nate, a black lab, and my life took a turn for the better. I remember picking up the harness for the first time, and taking the first walk. It felt wonderful, and scary because I knew that I had to put my trust into Nate. Over the next three weeks training was very hard, but rewarding.

There is one story that stands out in my memory, as I didn’t know on the last Thursday afternoon before graduation, if we were ready to face working at home. This story is hard to explain, but please close your eyes and feel my nerves, and what happened that afternoon on my mile and half walk.

I was dropped off, and it was a straight walk back to the downtown lounge. That should be an easy walk. When we were walking down the sidewalk it was a wonderful feeling that I could go and walk with joy in my heart. We were about half way back when it happened to us. Guide dogs are trained to walk on the left side of sidewalks. This makes it easier for them to see traffic or people coming toward them. That way they can react if necessary. Nate had a habit of walking on the left side of the sidewalk, and he moved over and we went up a little ramp, not steep at all. So I didn’t realize that there would be a problem. He stopped about ten steps later, and wouldn’t move. I tried a few times, and I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t move, but I put down the harness, and looked around. A few minutes later one of the trainers came up to me, and asked me if I wanted any help.

Yes I did but I said no thank you, I have to figure this out for myself, and I know there is a simple answer. I felt like I didn’t deserve this guide dog, as I couldn’t get him to work for me. I was crying, and I wanted to go and hide. I said I don’t deserve this wonderful guide dog, because he doesn’t want to work for me. Standing there for the next few minutes, I was wondering what I had done wrong.

The trainer came back, and said one thing can I give you a hint, I said yes. Where is the traffic, listen for the cars? I turned and listened for the traffic, and realized that it was farther away from my right side than it should have been. I turned to the trainer and said I am too far to the left of the road, and I am too close to the building. I should move closer to the road. So the trainer asked me how I could do this. I looked around and said maybe turn around. I could go back and see if my Nate and I can figure out where we went wrong on the last part of the walk, before the problem.

I turned around and picked up the harness, and said, "Nate, forward!" He moved. Joy filled my heart. It started us walking down the little ramp, and I knew what to do. I told Nate left, and we went and found the curb. Then I told Nate to turn left, and off we went. I found out later back at the lounge that I had been standing up about two feet from the side walk, and Nate decided that he didn’t want me to step off this wall.

When I arrived at the next crossing, the trainer came up and checked up on me. She made sure that I was okay, I said, "Please stay near. I feel shaken, but I still want to finish the rest of the walk." She gave me a quick hug and off we went on the rest of the route. That crossing was okay, but the next crossing Nate did not cross straight. So we redid it, and then off we went again.

We were in the last block, when he decided he wanted to stop in a doorway. I had to encourage him -- we weren’t stopping for a bagel.

So off we go again, and turn into the lounge, and went inside, the cheers went up. My classmates had been informed of what was taking me so long, and the story was around there, and the praise and cheer was wonderful. The class supervisor came up to me, and congratulated me and said I believe you are ready to go home with Nate.

The tears started falling, and I cried very hard, and said to her, "How can you mean this, as this was the worst walk we have ever done!" She said, "No, it was your best one, as you figured out how to solve your own problems." I was scared and happy at the same time, and glad others thought we were a team. This story is something I always will remember, as it taught me so much about myself, and what a guide dog can do for us, and a specially for me.

* * *

On February 5, 2005 we graduated from GDB, and my puppy family came to see me. I was so happy to see them, and saw many tears of joy that day. I flew home that evening with my new handler, as her youngest son was going to celebrate his seventh birthday the very next day. I was Dylan’s birthday wish. I was sad because I was not able to visit longer with my puppy family whom I loved very much.

I, Nate, over the next few weeks, settled in, and became part of their family. I enjoyed having kids around to play with. I enjoyed watching them play hockey outside, and thought the tennis balls should be mine. Mom worked with me out there many afternoons, as I would not listen all the time. She did obedience out there and many times she even had to turn our backs to the tennis balls as I just wanted them. It took mom most of that spring to get me to walk by the hockey game, and not want the tennis balls. Mom could not ever leave tennis balls in the house where I could find them. I did find one here or there, and would chew it up.

* * *

This next story is about three guide dogs and three boys, and a slide. Yes three dogs taking turns going down the slide, and you know they all behaved so well. The boys would take them up the stairs and, then let them slide down the slide. Nate was the youngest dog there and really enjoyed himself.

My two oldest sons were in a ten kilometer run, called the Vancouver Sun Run that spring, and we went into downtown Vancouver, and Nate did a wonderful job in the crowd that day . We went again the next year to support the boys. Nate was my only guide to attend the run.

We worked as a team over that spring and summer, and there were good routes and there were hard ones also.

That fall on Nate’s third Birthday we traveled into Vancouver, to pick up Dylan’s new glasses. Dylan thought that was very special and still remembers that Nate would do that for him. I only had him for one birthday and bought him a new bone. Nate did chew Nyla bones in about six to eight weeks.

That New Year’s day of 2006, we went to a baseball field that was closed in, and all had fun, two guide dogs, and Dylan running around, and Nate could have played longer. Nate had been there many times when we could get an hour or so without rain that fall and winter.

That spring, Nate’s health went downhill and for six weeks he just worried me as he wasn’t getting better and I knew something was very wrong.

He left to go to see Dr. Patty on May 18 2006, and with the belief that they could find the health problem and send him home. Under three weeks later he retired due to Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Thank you Nate for being a special part of my family. You gave so much to me over 15 months at home with you. You worked very hard to learn what places we needed to go. You and I were figuring out many things over this time and you taught me so much that today I am a better person for having you in my life.

On father’s day that June he returned to his puppy raiser family, and has lived with them to this day.

I did go and visit in their home before going back to guide dogs in August that year. Nate came to graduation for Hercules, Hawk and Kiara. I also had a visit from him on one Sunday when in class with Hawk.

Nate lived a full life with the family, and he became a therapy dog for Loving Animals Providing Smiles in Napa, where he encouraged many people.

Nate gave so much to all he knew and never stopped taking care of people in his lifetime.

On August 21, 2015 Nate went over the rainbow bridge and he is not in pain any more.

You will be missed Nate, as you were full of life, and kept all on our feet. You could play for many hours, and bring a smile to all around you. I will remember you had so much energy that was fun to watch you figure out how to use it.

Rest in peace my special Nayttor Tayttor

I will love you always,
Mom

  • Louise and Princess Kiara who is helping mom through this sad time

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