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Doggedly determined to be of service

Artwork by Elmira’s Joshua Przychodzki, 12, was among the creations Jacqueline Gori used to illustrate her latest book, I Love Labs. Proceeds from the fundraising effort will help train 14-week-old Dazzle to become a service dog like Gori’s helper, Samson.

A Breslau woman’s bit to raise funds to train guide dogs got a boost with the donation of a limited-edition print by renowned artist Robert Bateman.

The celebrated naturalist and his wife Birgit donated a signed and numbered (7/20) print of “Late Winter Black Squirrel, which will be auctioned online to raise funds for Partners with Paws, which provides fully-trained service dogs to deserving individuals or families.

The charity was launched by artist Jacqueline Gori, whose latest project is a book, I Love Labs – The Cooperslane Legacy, which features photos, illustrations and information about 50 Labrador retrievers, all from Cooperslane Kennels of Arthur. Proceeds from the book, produced in conjunction with collaborator Nancy Silcox of New Hamburg, will help offset the training of Dazzle, a 14-week-old yellow lab. The cost of training, including food, veterinary care and obedience work ahead of the dog placement next fall, is estimated at $15,000, said Gori.

The Batemans’ donation will certainly help with covering the costs, she added.

“An unbelievable opportunity came up to meet Robert Bateman, who is an idol of mine. I got to share with him my vision, and he donated this rare, beautiful print to auction off – it was quite the opportunity.”

Gori is well acquainted with service dogs and the benefits they bring.

“I was diagnosed with PTSD four years ago due to a traumatic and abusive childhood. My service dog, Samson, who I trained, has saved me from seven attempted suicides,” she said. “Because Samson has made such an impact on my life and given me back my will to live, I decided to use what I have, namely my artistic abilities and art school, to illustrate a book – Nancy wrote the text – to raise money to train other service dogs for people just like me.”

South African-born, Gori is open about her struggles that stem from a sexual assault. In coping with post-traumatic stress disorder, she’s aided by Samson, who also came from Cooperslane and shares a grandfather with little Dazzle, who’s just beginning her journey as a service dog.

Gori’s work with the animals can be seen in other fundraising publications, including “In Service: Portraits of Dogs that Change Lives” in collaboration with Silcox. Gori’s work is also featured in that author’s “Workin’ Like a Dog; Doin’ Nuthin’ Like a Cat: Canadian Pets Who Go to the Office.” Her portraits of 41 dogs was recently featured in an art display called “When Passions Collide.”

Her fundraising experience and work with service dogs led to the most recent publication and the charitable venture.

“I thought about how could I take what I have … and turn that into something that would help people,” said Gori of her artistic skills, in conjunction with Silcox’s writing in I Love Labs. So she and I put this book together, which we’re hoping will raise a couple of service dogs. But then when I was thinking about it, I wanted to take it a bit further. So this was when I decided to start a charity. And I’m in the process of getting that registered.”

I Love Labs features the work of Cooperslane, who’ve bred a number of service dogs.

“They have dog breeding programs of two of the major charities, national service dogs and autism dog services – they have such a passion for this,” said Gori, praising the work of kennel founder Valerie Cooper.

“I went back to her and I said, ‘would you be prepared to allow me to write a book about you that would raise money for service dogs?’”

Along with Silcox’s writing, the book features the work of some of Gori’s art students.

More information, including some upcoming book-signing events on February 29, can be found online.

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