Thursday, October 28, 2010

RIP Damian, 1993-2010

Allan and Damian, 2007
photo by John Chao
It is with great sadness that we report the passing of one of our most faithful volunteers this afternoon. Many of you know Damian as the golden retriever service dog of volunteer Allan Dreyer. But Damian was a friend and volunteer in his own right, one dedicated to a lifetime of service who spread good will wherever he went. He died peacefully at his home this afternoon at 2:45pm.

Few people know that Damian, in fact, had his own volunteer agreement, signed with his paw print, documenting his important role on our staff. According to this agreement, Damian's duties were to assist Mount Rainier National Park volunteer Allan Dreyer, as well as "spreading good will and good cheer among park visitors and employees; inspiring his coworkers with  his dedication, enthusiasm, and positive demeanor; helping to bring positive attention to the volunteer program at Mount Rainier; and increasing the species diversity of our volunteer staff." While there was certainly a tongue-in-cheek element to Damian's paperwork, his service was beyond question, and he admirably accomplished all of the things listed in his position description and more.

Above all, Damian loved the outdoors, and Allan consistently reported that Damian would perk up when they drove up the road into Mount Rainier National Park. Even when old age led to creaky joints at lower elevations, he would happily bound through the mountain snow like a puppy, accompanying Allan on snowshoe walks or, in the summer, along the trails as a meadow rover. He loved people just as much, and was infinitely patient with visitors who wanted to pet his long, soft, orange fur.

Allan and Damian became volunteers together in August of 2003. Like so many volunteers, Allan had hiked the trails of the park for years before a chance encounter with another volunteer convinced him to ask about joining our program himself. It quickly became apparent that Damian was an equally valuable addition to our crew. Allan wrote a note to the newsletter of Dogs for the Deaf, from whom Damian was adopted in 1994, proudly announcing the news:

"I wanted you to know that Damian has officially been made a VIP -- that is a 'Volunteer in the Park,' at Mount Rainier. The US Park Service used Damian's paw print in lieu of a signature. Damian is a true greeter when we work at the park. When people enter the lodge to sign up for our park-led snowshoe hikes, he greets each of them. Our snowshoe hikes have about twenty people per hike. One of the rangers was complaining to me that the people were raving over Damian and thanking us for having Damian on the hike. The ranger said, 'What about me? I was leading the hike.' So they thanked him for coming along, too.

"Damian is one LOVED dog. People always come up and ask questions about him. He, in turn, loves everyone. The rangers at Mount Rainier love him to pieces. There are few people who are on our hikes who haven't at least one photo of Damian to take home with them."

Our friend died October 28, 2010, at the age of 17, after a long span of declining health. He is survived by his companion and friend, Allan Dreyer, and Allan's wife Lisa, who live in Tacoma. They plan to spread Damian's ashes in the national park he loved so much.


Tom said...

This marks the passing of a truly loved and loving member of the VIP staff at Mt. Rainier. Rest in peace my friend - you are missed and loved.

Matt said...

My condolences to all how loved Damien. I remember seeing him there many years back (10 maybe). I recently lost my own friend and now how difficult it can be. Thank you for relaying this story!

sass said...

Dear Allan,

I didn't get to meet Damian, but I know you loved him very much. Sounds like he had a great life.