Gryphon, a 14-year-old Labrador retriever therapy dog, died on March 7 and some students and school staff in Yellowknife are heartbroken.
“He would just gravitate to an individual student. He just knew who needed it more than anybody else, who just wanted to pet him. That’s something that you can’t teach a dog to do. That’s what made him so great,” said Jeff Seabrook, principal for William McDonald Middle School and Gryphon’s owner. “He just loved everybody.”
Gryphon found his way into Seabrook’s life after he and his family chose him from a litter of puppies. From there, they would grow to love Gryphon’s many characteristics.
“We got a letter from the breeder that said, ‘Open when you get Gryphon,’” Seabrook recalled. “It talked about how (Gryphon) would be a great therapy dog — he’s got the eyes of an old soul and also all these elements.
“It was true. He came into the home, a mild-mannered, beautiful, two-year-old Lab, and those characteristics followed him right up until he was in the hospital,” he said.
After 14 years of providing therapy and positive memories to staff and students alike, the outpouring of thoughtfulness and heartfelt messages have helped Seabrook as he’s come to terms with the loss of his beloved pet.
“Everyone knew that Gryphon was my dog, the family dog, so the kids have been fantastic, coming up and saying, ‘I’m sorry,’” he said.
Gryphon began feeling unwell during the beginning of the year, which limited his time at the school, but he still managed to make a few appearances that would brighten students’ days and faces.
According to a social media post from the school, Gryphon spent “12 of his 14 years comforting, supporting and loving the students and staff of Ecole William McDonald Middle School.”
Over the last dozen years, Gryphon would help to greet more than 1,000 new students.
According to Seabrook, Gryphon not only had a notable impact in the school and community, but also found some fame as well, having been featured on CBC North, as well as in a book about therapy animals.
“He’s had it pretty good,” he said.
Gryphon is being honoured through an electronic card, put together by Jeff’s daughter Lauren Seabrook, that features several comments about how much Gryphon was loved.