|The poignant tale of Compton and Warner
Blind RP man misses his canine companion
We’re all familiar with man and his dog folk tales, ranging from hillbillyish, “Every time I go to town, the boys start kicking my dog around …” to sagas like rescuers in the Swiss Alps and St. Bernard’s fitted with brandy flasks to save a life.
Every once in a while, a man and his dog story comes our way, like Tony Compton and his dog, Warner. There’s much that was special between Compton and Warner. An awful lot. But let’s get the facts down as best we can.
No. 1, Compton is blind, 66 years old, and lives in Rancho Grande Mobile Home Park in Rohnert Park. Warner’s a Black Labrador, trained seeing-eye dog Compton got from the Seeing Eye Foundation in Morristown, N.J.
Love at first sight
The Compton-Warner connection could be called love at first sight. They both underwent “courtship stage” or merely getting acquainted at Morristown, and the bond was tightly cemented here on the opposite coast. Included was Compton’s feline companion, who Warner playfully accepted as part of his new duty package.
“Being blind, I couldn’t see Warner, but then on Aug. 29 this year, he wouldn’t eat his supper and seemed very lethargic. I could sense that.
“I took him to a veterinary clinic here in town, and they told me he had a bleeding peptic ulcer, an arrhythmic heart and lung problem. He spent five days at the clinic, and then I took him home with a bagful of medicines.
“A few days later he developed breathing problems, and the veterinarian told me he was suffocating. We had to put him to sleep. It was the saddest day of my life.”
All the time we were talking, Compton’s eyes glistened with tears and he clutched a circular clay plaque. It was Warner’s paw print preserved forever in clay.
We slowly got back to Compton’s background.
“I was born in Gilroy but went to many high schools, for my stepfather was in the construction business and we traveled a lot with all the kids. I had four brothers and two sisters, but they have health problems of their own. I went to Diablo Valley College for less than two years, decided education wasn’t for me.
“So, with $75 in my pocket and a bowling ball in my bag, I took off for Los Angeles on my own,” he said. “I was always athletically talented in baseball and basketball and a round bowling ball seemed sensible. I was already a good bowler. I got a job in a big bowling center, and the owner spotted my talent and offered me a job and opportunities to compete in regional bowling tourneys. I made good prize money for both of us. I placed 23rd at a national bowling tourney in Madison Square Garden (New York City).
“But then my eyesight began to deteriorate and I got involved with state rehabilitation programs, worked as a janitor at the Earle Baum Center for the Blind in Santa Rosa and at Travis Air Force Base, where blind people had special computers and microphones to handle air traffic. Soon, Warner entered my life and I’ve been trying to recover from his loss ever since.”
Compton doesn’t live alone. He’s been married and then divorced, no children, and now has a companion, Terri Claire Benning, a 61-year old who’s deeply involved in channeling and similar occult sciences. She was at a channeling seminar held in Guerneville as we talked.
“I met her at the pool and spa facility here at Rancho Grande,” Compton said. “We talked and found we had a lot in common. Terri was renting a home here, and we both decided it would make more sense to move in with me.
“Terri made me this plaque with Warner’s paw print, and she also bought me an electric organ, which I’m learning to play. I enjoy it, mostly self-taught, and I just call myself a “doodler” with it, but I’m learning. She also is insisting I’d better get another dog, tells me they’re the best way to relieve stress and I truly believe that,” he said while fondling the plaque.
“But I owe $6,000 to the veterinary clinic and don’t feel I can afford it now.”
Compton has many friends at Rancho Grande. They sponsored an ice cream reception in the clubhouse and raised $1,000 to help pay his bills. He has no pensions, no SSI, just his Social Security to cover expenses.
“I remember the good times Warner and I had. We used to walk three times a week down to Safeway from here and walk back. He loved those excursions. I promised Terri I will get another dog as soon as I feel financially able.”