TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Bill Dain’s 5-year-old golden retriever is more than a service dog to the visually impaired Overbrook man — Kirkcaldy is Dain’s lifeline.
Dain has managed the cafeteria in the Landon State Office Building for nearly nine years. He also manages cafeterias in the Docking State Office Building and the Westar building, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1eo2sGW ).
Kirkcaldy helps Dain travel back and forth between the buildings. Their day begins at 4:30 a.m., when Dain is dropped off at the Landon building to begin food preparation. At 6:30 a.m., Dain walks to Westar to check on his employees there, and by 8 a.m., he makes his way to the Docking building to oversee work there.
Kirkcaldy, who came to Dain through KSDS Inc. in Washington, began working with Dain about three years ago. Before that, Dain had a black Labrador named Bronco that served as his assistance dog for 10 years.
For the past five weeks, Kirkcaldy hasn’t been by Dain’s side for the walks. Instead, Dain has to rely on a white cane he has nicknamed Homer.
Kirkcaldy recently tore his anterior cruciate ligament and had to go to Overland Park to have surgery. The surgery to have Caldy’s ACL repaired cost $3,200, an expense Dain has to cover. Caldy won’t be able to serve Dain for at least another five weeks. He is staying with Dain’s family while he recuperates.
“For me, Kirkcaldy is my life,” Dain said. “He is so important. He gives me my independence back. He can take me anywhere I want to go. He is everything to me. He is my lifeline.”
While Caldy works as Dain’s service dog, he also is much more to the Dain family.
“He is a big part of my family,” Dain said. “He’s my little man on four paws.”
Vicky Gorrell, who retired from the state in September, said Dain “is a positive thinking man, always ready with a joke or fun comment.”
Gorrell said the cost for Caldy’s surgery was “high considering Mr. Dain is like many of us who have felt the economic downturn recently.”
“While coworkers and other caring employees of the state have had bake sales and made donations, only one-third of the surgical costs have been covered,” Gorrell wrote in a letter to the newspaper. “I believe that the Topeka community should and would rally to help Mr. Dain and his family in this circumstance.”
An account has been established at CoreFirst Bank and Trust under the name “Kirkcaldy’s Medical Fund.”
Dain, who was born in Topeka and was raised here until he was 14, became visually impaired in 1990 because of eye disease, he said. Dain served in the United States Army from 1968-70 and then became a millwright and worked at Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant.
He found out he was losing his sight when he didn’t pass an eye exam in South Carolina, where he had traveled to for a construction project.
“I went through a depression time,” Dain said.
Six years after learning he was losing his sight, Dain’s son was killed in a motorcycle crash. In 2003, his Topeka home was destroyed in a fire.
“I’m a strong Christian, so I know God pulled me through it,” he said.
Earlier this week, Dain was enjoying a southwest chicken salad with some of his employees before the lunch rush started at the Landon cafeteria.
Dain smiled as he explained how he prepares the food, having worked so long in the kitchen he knows his way around it.
Shirley Schroth, assistant manager for the Landon cafeteria, has worked with Dain for more than five years. She is one of the few people Dain trusts to handle Caldy because Schroth used to help train KSDS dogs.
“He’s probably one of the best bosses I’ve ever had,” she said.
As Dain prepared to leave the cafeteria to check on his other workers, he grabbed his white cane.
“I prefer Caldy over the stick any day,” Dain said. “I prefer to have my guide dog. I miss him.”
Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com
An AP Member Exchange contributed by The Topeka Capital-Journal