Admired as a women’s ice hockey sledge icon and revered for her brave military service, Christy Gardner embodies the qualities of a hero. Just as relevant involves the highly positive impact that dogs have played over the last decade. Requiring the use of a service dog, known as Moxie, following an unfortunate accident during her military tenure, an unbreakable bond developed.
A source of constant friendship, whose presence provides residual warmth, Moxie is even prominent at the rink, where Gardner’s athletic endeavors resulted in becoming a member of the United States women’s ice sledge hockey team. Undoubtedly, Moxie holds a fond place in the hearts and minds of Gardner’s friends and fans.
Running parallel to this remarkable journey for Gardner involves a friendship with an author who also holds her own unique linkage to the military. Raised in New York State, Eileen Doyon, the daughter of a World War II veteran, honoured him in her first book. Serving as the catalyst for an inspiring series, including compelling themes such as: Best Friends, Dedications, Keepsakes, Pet Tales: Unconditional Love and Starting Over, it marked a labour of love for the highly talented scribe.
“My book series developed after my dad, a Marine who fought at Iwo Jima at 17 years young, died of lung cancer in 2011. I wanted to pay tribute to him and did my first book, Dedications: Dads and Daughters and my book series, Unforgettable Faces and Stories was born.
People would submit a story about a common thread that each of my books featured. The feedback was incredible and helped people. My eighth book, Patriots of Courage, Tributes to First Responders brought me together with so many amazing people.”
With Gardner providing quotes for Doyon’s Pet Tales: Unconditional Love, part of the Unforgettable Faces and Stories series, an opportunity to collaborate once again emanated from a shared interest in a puppy that resulted in a compelling connection.
In addition to her growing legacy as an icon in ice sledge hockey, Gardner developed another passion, becoming a dog trainer. Discovering a puppy born with an arm deformity, forced to walk on the outside of his wrist, the direct result that his elbow was not shaping properly, a surgical procedure was completed at the tender age of 4 months old.
Known by the sobriquet “Lucky”, Gardner, who has two prosthetic legs, saw tremendous potential in the puppy. By the time that Lucky had reached one year old, Gardner had successfully trained Lucky to become certified as a therapy dog. Serving at Leeds Central School, it was the first puppy Gardner had trained with special needs. Finding ability in his disability, creating a possibility out of what others deemed impossible, Gardner found a brave puppy with lots of love to give.
While Gardner currently works on two other trainees, puppies with the nomenclature of Douglas and Gidget, both poised to eventually serve as Service Dogs for Disabled Veterans in New England, her efforts as a skilled and qualified puppy raiser in filling a very important gap in the community. Mentioning how Lucky remains in her home state of Maine, the bond between the two only strengthens, resulting in a tremendous feeling of fulfillment and betterment of life, crystallizing an amazing sense of camaraderie and empathy,
“Lucky was puppy number 10 of 12 that I have trained. He is the fourth that is a therapy dog while the rest are service dogs. The most awesome parts of working with Lucky were that he was the first I trained who had a disability and also the first to stay here in Maine.
We bonded a bunch because of his disability and his current handler calls me Momma 1, and herself Momma 2, for him. I love that I still get to see him and how excited he is to come visit us.”
Having also written heart-warming literary pieces including Patriots of Courage: Tributes to First Responders, Letters to Heaven and The Second My Life Changed Forever, Doyon’s eighth book, Lucky…Little Guy, BIG Mission, with illustrations by Susan Spellman, would see her finding muses in both Gardner and Lucky. Following a year-long sabbatical, Doyon was spurred by watching Gardner’s story on a local news report, supplying her with a sense of newfound purpose and contented rejuvenation.
Approaching her latest work as a children’s book, an unprecedented first in her career, Doyon explored many different themes, the most relevant to never give up on one’s pursuits in life, regardless of obstacles. Mirroring Gardner’s own indomitable spirit, managing to emerge as a mainstay, and valued leader, with the US national ice sledge hockey team, to a commendable occupation as a dog trainer, it marks a natural extension of her strong leadership and teaching acumen, propelling her into role model status.
Undeniably, Lucky holds such status too, emerging as a figure of tremendous importance after a difficult start in which no one believed. Demonstrating how being different should never be a source of ridicule or discouragement, it is a powerful message that relates to another important societal movement; anti-bullying.
“I felt it was bringing me closer to what my path/mission really was in life and this was preparing me. My husband and I are dedicated to our veterans and thank them and support them as much as we can. After that book, I told my husband that I was taking a break the next year from writing. I was searching for my mission.
I had met Christy in 2014 when she wrote a story in my book, Pet Tales and stayed in touch, and we are friends on Facebook. I was going thru my feed one night and saw her interview with Steve Hartman, I cried and cried and watched it like 18 times.
This was it….this was my calling and my mission. I told my husband that I wanted to do a children’s book about Christy, Moxie and Lucky. It has everything, Veteran’s support, inspiration, paying it forward, never giving up, being different is ok, role models, and yes, dogs and puppies! How could I not.
I had never done a children’s book prior. My previous books were soft cover and were done thru a Self-Publisher and the four most recent ones, I did myself thru Amazon. This was a whole new learning experience. I had to write the story myself, investigate how to do it, find an illustrator, designer and book publisher/printer all in New England. That was very important and a must for me.”
Considering that proceeds from the book are poised to assist Gardner, enabling and empowering her to continue her interests in training more puppies, it not only represents a very strong source of pride for a jubilant Doyon, but it adds another element of sincerity to their friendship, “I am very, very proud in supporting her and her mission. It helps so many people in so many ways!”
Certainly, Gardner’s efforts represent a highly important cause. Able to give back to the community in highly enriching and rewarding ways, creating purpose and profound meaning as puppies become service / therapy dogs, it helps to meet a rising demand.
Reflecting emotion of a highly reciprocal nature for Gardner, whose life has been made so much more special through the presence of Moxie, her expanding bond with Lucky holds a similar impact. With Lucky becoming the focus of Doyon’s eighth book, it also allows Gardner’s love of pets to become part of popular culture once again.
In addition to appearing on the highly popular Rachael Ray Show, of which Moxie was by her side in studio, Gardner has enjoyed another appearance on the printed page, appearing in Sports Souls. A compelling book of photography by Andrea Mead Cross, featuring athletes and their pets, with proceeds benefiting animal charities, it introduced many sporting enthusiasts to the highly powerful connection between Gardner and Moxie.
Undeniably, Lucky…Little Guy, BIG Mission, represents another unique chapter in Gardner’s journey, showcasing a fond appreciation for friendship, in all its forms. Elated over the finished product, a highly satisfied Gardner recognizes that such an exceptional piece examines many important topics, covering a spectrum of highly poignant subjects that should resonate among its readers. Grateful that Moxie and herself are also part of the narrative, it bridges unique facets in her journey, weaving a unique tapestry of redemption and perseverance.
“The book about Lucky’s early life is absolutely adorable. I love the illustrations and also that Moxie and I were able to be a part of it. Really though, it has been incredible to see the book tackle issues like bullying and disabilities and to see the kids react to that.”
Finding tremendous inspiration in Gardner’s ability to become an athletic icon and celebrated role model, another intriguing connection for Doyon is the fact that her husband Danny, a hockey enthusiast who once competed on the frozen perimeter, hails from Lewiston, Maine, the same hometown as Gardner. Having both become fans of ice sledge hockey, they have become common fixtures at contests featuring Gardner’s club team, the New England Warriors.
Comprised of military veterans who have transitioned to the sled, the Warriors represent a fighting spirit, providing wounded and injured veterans an opportunity to rehabilitate while discovering a newfound sense of belonging and teamwork. Worth noting, the club, who would play its first game in February 2015 against the Ice Vets. Co-founded by Gardner and Ian Ramsdell, also known by his nickname, “Battleship”, emerging as a sister chapter of the USA Warriors Sled organization, their raison d’etre also involves veteran outreach.
Indubitably, the level of effort exerted by these courageous athletes is not lost on Doyon or her husband. With a highly ambitious project, seeing a vast hockey complex under construction, Maples Crossing, dedicated to America’s oldest amateur club, is poised to open in 2021 in Amesbury, Massachusetts. Doyon is optimistic that it shall be destined to become a new home for the budding sport of ice sledge hockey, raising awareness while establishing an atmosphere of encouragement and friendship for others to try the sport.
With an uplifting friendship encompassed by earnestness and mutual respect, the feeling of inspiration is reciprocal. While Doyon has employed her empathic writing skills to recognize the heroics and sacrifices of military life, such chronicles possess a human element that pay homage to strength of will, masterfully blending emotion and narrative to extol the virtues of such brave and admired individuals. Gardner, having overcome her wounds, becoming a sporting hero, holds reverence for the wondrous inspiration that she brings to every day. Having always brought dignity in overcoming any adversity, shattering stereotypes, this 21st Century American original is destined to become a transcendent figure.
Through the printed pages of Lucky, Little Guy…Big Mission, this elegantly and beautifully written piece is best defined by the riveting discovery of one’s potential. Providing an introspective understanding through a revealing portrait of faith and persistence, aspects that consist of a stirring context, consistent throughout Doyon’s other impressive works, it resonates with readers, providing a shared feeling of triumph. The author’s vision, reaching fulfillment, channeling Gardner’s courage, the realization is a profound aesthetic. Simultaneously representing the graceful connection, which is the benchmark of a fascinating friendship, harmoniously immortalized in text and imagery.
“Danny and I have been to several of her games. We love to watch and support the team members. I think it is an amazing sport and would love to see more people attend. My husband use to play ice hockey in school and he explains to me how the game works. They all are playing to win and give it their all. The people we meet are incredible.
I got in touch with one of the executives of the Amesbury Maple Crossing being built. They will have six hockey rinks going in. I would like them to have more exposure for people to come and watch Sled Hockey and cheer the teams on. I connected Christy to him.
My friendship with Christy is so important and valuable to me. I look up to her for lessons in my own life. She inspires me to always be my best, give my best and to pay it forward in life no matter what the circumstance is.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Acknowledgements: Brian Hoek
To purchase a copy of Lucky, Little Guy, BIG Mission, please visit:
Unforgettable Faces and Stories: https://unforgettablefacesandstories.com/luckylittle-guy-big-mission/
Pet Tales: Unconditional Love can also be purchased on Amazon: https://rb.gy/cjxpmj
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