Get acquainted – TONY

Born: 17 November, 2010
Deceased: November, 2022
Breed: Golden retriever

Ligita Damberga recalls her first meeting with Tony:
I met this pretty golden retriever male with a toy bear’s face more than 4 years ago in Finland. As a puppy Tony was playful and frisky, and tried to receive praise. He immediately captured my heart. I wished this puppy would luck out with his master, optimally with a group of playful children around him. However, everything turned out differently. Tony already had a master, who didn’t know how to properly care for the animal, the next master cared more for his alcoholic beverages than for his dog, who had been trained to be eyes for the blind, and who wanted to be a friend.

Currently Tony has his third master. Now the dog is in his prime, the most mature of the society’s guide dogs. Everyone is convinced that Tony is now with a good master and friend – I truly hope that this time he will not be disappointed.
Tony’s new master, Rinalds Krēgers, describes Tony:

A year with guide dog Tony

Friends, it’s time to share my feelings about the year that has been spent with guide dog Tony!

Tony was born in 2010 and he has had, as have I, a colorful life. By rough calculation, we are the same age ☺. I met Tony on April 1 2017 thanks to guide dog society TEODORS and trainer Zaiga. Until then I had no knowledge of life with a dog, never mind a guide dog! The first two months were spent getting to know one another and learning. That was a new and exciting venture which, at the time, I thought would not be surpassed. But I was wrong! The greatest work lay ahead.

I got to know Tony not only as a very smart, sincere and always happy dog, but also as a talented actor. During one of our walks I decided to go to a cafe, which Tony and I like, to, one could say, fortify myself. Everything was fine – Tony did his business, walked and contentedly grunted. When we weren’t far from the cafe, I instructed Tony to find the door. He obeyed and… I found myself standing by a drawing of the door next to the cafe entrance. Nice! Tony enthusiastically grunted so loudly that only
the deaf would not hear. After some discussion, Tony shyly led me to the correct door.

Another favorite trick of Tony’s is to secretly take one slipper when we get home. Then he happily sits and watches while I look for it, because I know that both are supposed to be there next to one another. Now I’m on to this trick, and immediately tell Tony to look for and retrieve the slippers. Then I thoroughly praise him and we’re both happy. These are just a couple of talented actor Tony’s repertoire. As a result, the biggest challenge for me was and is – to trust in Tony because at the beginning his humor didn’t seem at all acceptable.

Since I’m not Tony’s first master, and Tony has a wealth of life’s experiences, I think he didn’t have an easy time to adjust to me and my needs, and to acknowledge me as his master. Now that a year has passed, we have learned to better understand one another, and our walks are no longer battles for leadership and trust. Now Tony is an integral part of me, we have acquired mutual experience. I have also understood the saying that dog and master become similar. During our introductory period, we were like two boots, now we’re turning into a pair of boots.
Tonijs un Rinalds
With Tony’s entrance in my life, we have aroused journalists’ interest about our cooperation – there have been articles in magazines, internet sites, we have been in news broadcasts about Rigans. Tony loves to be photographed and filmed. Then he stands proud and stately. People show interest daily – in public transit, on the street, at work. People come up to me to meet Tony. I try to educate people encountered how to behave with a guide dog. It’s not easy for people to understand that one must not pet Tony, nor give him treats, nor watch how he leads me.

Since I take public transport daily to work, primarily tram, I wish to give huge thanks to drivers for their understanding and assistance. Also thanks to frequented shop staff, to people met daily, who ask whether I need any assistance. It’s wonderful to realize that people around me aren’t indifferent, but sincere and helpful.

Reflecting upon and remembering several instances from our walks, I must say that Tony is not merely a guide dog. He is my friend and defender, who will not let anyone harm me. There have been situations when Tony stands next to me and starts to growl and bark. Having stopped, I realize that a drunk is approaching, or someone has quietly passed from behind. Doubtful that a well-intentioned person would approach stealthily from behind There have also been funny situations. When going to work in winter, Tony stood in front of me, as to protect me, and barked to no end. I was at a loss as to what had happened. Turned out that children had built a snowman by the doorway! That too, was useful information. Then I knew that there was a snowman.

Each day spent together presents something new and interesting, we get discounts in stores, in the cafe Tony gets free bacon buns, we get photographed with people who want to learn about guide dogs, get into various situations where we get to know one another better, where we need to work on things, We both are mature guys who sometimes are afraid, but continue to conquer challenges.
Tonijs un Rinalds
More information about Tony is available:

Photos: Ligita Damberga
Riga, May 2018