by Henry Lane Hull
When I was a child my grandmother frequently quoted her own mother’s constant adage, “Every boy should have a dog,” a statement that she and I would cite to my parents during those times that we were dogless. Cyndi Salesky would have altered that statement to read, “Everyone, man, woman, boy, girl, and senior should have a dog.” Actually, she probably would have said “Everyone should have several dogs.”
Cyndi was the Northern Neck’s canine guru, the person to whom we all could turn with our questions of pet psychology, behavior, attitude, personality or discipline. She loved animals and established bonds with them that lasted throughout their lives. She did not offer glib comments, but once asked a question by a dog owner, she happily became permanently involved with that pet’s development.
For years on end she worked with the Northern Neck Kennel Club in conducting obedience classes, where her recognized fields of expertise were agility and socialization. Cyndi saw dogs as having been created to be human companions, and that their owners should take seriously the duties incumbent to raising and caring for them properly.
When our Welsh corgi produced her puppy, a singleton, our first line of inquiry was to Cyndi, who readily advised on how the newcomer should be socialized. She saw the interrelationship between humans and dogs as a fact of nature that we must understand and be able to convey to our furry pets.
A few years ago Cyndi built a new home for herself and her dogs. She carefully constructed the house and the yard to be pet-friendly. The inner back yard was for the smaller dogs and the larger enclosed park-like setting was for her large ones. Both areas were commodious and inviting to humans as well as dogs with attractive fencing enclosing extensive exercise space.
When taking care of her errands Cyndi would be accompanied by one or two of her pets. She confidently would take a dog into the bank, knowing that the only deposits would be financial. In such settings her friends and even strangers would greet her and her dog. To have omitted saying hello to the dog would have been an egregious social error, which Cyndi would address by cluing the other person in by saying, “This is so-and-so who will be happy if you pet him.”
Perhaps Cyndi’s greatest charism was in training and using therapy dogs. She regularly took her dogs to schools and nursing homes to teach children the values attendant to having a pet and to offer comfort and solace to those who were shut-ins. She saw this activity as a ministry in which she was uplifting the sick and infirm by giving them the companionship of a loving dog. Patients regularly looked for Cyndi to come, knowing that they would be treated to her love as well as that of one or two of her “best friends.”
Earlier this month Cyndi died unexpectedly in her home, leaving her pets and all those whom they collectively befriended to mourn. Posted on her kitchen calendar for the month of November, as it had been for every month, were the dates of each week’s school and nursing home visits.
In her professional career Cyndi had been a financial planner, who, while raising her two sons, graduated from the University of Maryland as an accounting major. She carried that level of precision, accuracy and self-discipline into her work with pets, who were her clients, friends and family.
My grandmother would have been enthusiastic in voicing her approval of Cyndi’s approach to our canine friends and family members. I do not think I am exaggerating in saying that Cyndi never met a dog she did not like, one in which she did not see worth and one that despite the effort on her part was not capable of love. She was a modern Saint Francis of Assisi in our midst.
Cynthia “Cyndi” Joan Salesky, November 6, 1946 – November 8, 2019. R.I.P.