SENECA FALLS — On May 16, John and Kathy Dragone comforted their beloved 12-year-old Golden Retriever Kobe and said their goodbyes before he would be put to sleep.
It was a particularly difficult farewell, because just a year earlier it was Kobe who was comforting the couple during John’s near-fatal illness. In the winter of 2018, Dragone, 64, was hospitalized twice due to complications from the flu and pneumonia and underwent lifesaving lung surgery in Rochester.
During that time, Dragone said Kobe turned his attention from his favorite human being, Kathy, to him. Although Kobe loved walks, he would not join Kathy for his favorite jaunts around the neighborhood — instead choosing to stay by John’s side 24 hours a day during the entire month Dragone was ill.
Dragone recalls Kobe following him from one room to another as he tried to get comfortable in a recliner or on the couch. Wherever Dragone landed, Kobe would devotedly plant himself by his side.
It was pet therapy at its finest, and Dragone said Kobe’s companionship greatly eased his and his wife’s fears during that stressful time.
In Kobe’s final hours, Dragone said his wife turned to him and tearfully commented how Kobe was an example on how they should live their own lives — with unconditional love, loyalty, selflessness, kindness and playfulness.
“Words can’t begin to express how much I loved Kobe and how much I miss him,” Dragone said. “He did so much for me, especially during my illness, and taught Kathy and me so much about life that I felt compelled to do something to honor his memory, and have his legacy of love live on.”
The day after Kobe died Dragone met with Dallyn Jenkins, director of the Beverly Animal Shelter in Waterloo, and pitched his idea. The retired Mynderse Academy guidance counselor — who has run a college/career guidance private practice since 2012 — wanted to hold college-planning seminars to benefit the shelter.
During his years as a school guidance counselor and in his private practice, Dragone said he has assisted more than 1,700 students with their post-high school plans, and hundreds of students and parents have attended his college-planning seminars. Now that his wife is retired and they have a grandchild, and with their three grown children living in three different states, Dragone is moving away from taking individual clients and instead focusing on holding free seminars for students and their parents — with 100 percent of the voluntary donations earmarked for the shelter in Kobe’s memory.
The first seminar, “Mastering the College Application Process,’’ is for seniors only and will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Waterloo Fire Department meeting room. Online registration is required at www.jdCollegeGuidance.com; spots will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis and no walk-ins will be accepted. Twenty slots are available and a student must be accompanied by a parent.
Other seminars, for students in grades 10-12, that are planned for the 2019-20 school year include:
• College Planning Seminar for Juniors
• How to Choose a College Major/Career
• Understanding How Colleges Award Scholarships and Financial Aid
• Understanding How Colleges Make Admission Decisions
Dragone emphasized that his seminars are not meant to replace students meeting with their high school guidance counselors.
“Guidance counselors are an absolutely outstanding resource for college and career guidance,” Dragone said. “It is of utmost importance that students and parents take advantage of their knowledge and expertise throughout the high school years.”
Although he welcomes goodwill donations for the shelter, the seminars are free and the donations are voluntary.
“It is important to me that students and parents, regardless of their financial means, have access to the valuable information presented in my seminars,” Dragone said.
Jenkins of the Beverly Animal Shelter, said Dragone’s donations in memory of Kobe will be put to good use. She noted in the last three weeks the shelter has spayed and neutered 98 of its own animals (mostly cats) and still has another 25 to go when it gets the funds to do so.
Jenkins recalls Kobe, who would visit the shelter for nail trimming.
“I remember the animals better than the people,” she said, adding Kobe was “a nice dog.”
Jenkins said she also lost her dog around the same time and Dragone’s idea to memorialize Kobe touched her deeply.
“Anybody who thinks that much of their animal and wants to help other animals, I’m all in,” Jenkins said.