Beloved guide dog of inspirational blind USC long snapper Jake Olson dies

USC long snapper Jake Olson walks on a football field with the aid of his service dog, Quebec
USC long snapper Jake Olson (61) and his service dog, Quebec, walk on the field at the Coliseum on Oct. 13, 2018. Quebec died at age 14. (Jevone Moore / Associated Press)

A lot of barking goes on in a college football locker room. Coaches barking at players. Players barking at each other. The entire team barking and howling just before bursting onto the field to begin a game.

An actual dog once barked in the USC locker room. His name was Quebec, and since 2011 the yellow Labrador was the guide dog for Jake Olson, who became a national inspiration for his uplifting story of taking the field as the Trojans long snapper years after losing his sight.

Quebec died Thursday at 14, and Olson, now a motivational speaker, posted a heartfelt appreciation on Instagram:

“A bond was broken today that defies words. A part of me died today along with the loss of my bestest friend I could have ever ask for. But a part of Quebec will always live on in my heart and life, along with all the lives he was able to touch.

"In our 13 years together, Q graduated high school with me, college with me, traveled to 28 states with me, met a US president, played in the Coliseum, ran on countless golf courses, and celebrated The best of times with me while enduring heart break with me.”

Olson, 27, joined the USC team in 2015 and two years later snapped the ball during a point-after kick during a season-opening win over Western Michigan at the Coliseum.

When the ball sailed through the uprights, the USC sideline erupted, fans hugged and high-fived and Quebec sensed something wonderful had happened and barked in approval.

Read more: Column: USC long snapper Jake Olson delivers in a key moment — 'Certain things are bigger than the game'

Olson and Quebec became a team in 2010, shortly after Olson had his right eye removed at age 12. He'd battled a rare form of eye cancer, retinoblastoma, nearly his entire life, and lost his left eye before he turned 1.

Yet by the time he enrolled at USC in 2015 on a Swim With Mike scholarship, awarded annually from the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship fund, Olson had played varsity football and golf at Orange Lutheran High, sung in the school choir, co-written two faith-based books about overcoming adversity and been featured on national television.

He'd been a frequent guest of USC football since 2009, forging a bond with then-coach Pete Carroll. Olson attended strategy meetings and joined the team on the sideline at games. The day before he had his right eye removed, he chose to spend his last day with sight at a USC practice.

“There were nights of crying and stressful times when I couldn’t get the thought of going blind out of my psyche,” Olson told The Times in 2015. “But every time I was up at SC or talking to one of the players or just being around, it was just pure fun.

“And, truthfully, pure peace.”

Read more: Great Read: Blind fan inspired USC's football team; now he could be a part of it

Olson's constant companion was the yellow lab with a sweet disposition and unbreakable loyalty he affectionately called Q.

"Quebec was born November 6th 2009. I went blind on November 12th 2009," Olson wrote on Instagram. "If you know anything about dogs, it’s that they are born blind and it takes about a week for a puppy’s eyes to open. I believe Q saw for the first time the day I lost my sight. Yes, God made him for me and allowed me to be with him for 12 years and 341 days.

"Even though he is no longer physically with me, I once heard that, 'If you’re lucky enough to have known a great one, they never really leave. They stay with you as long as you live, Harness to your heart, giving their all.' And Q was that! To the true GOAT. You will always be loved and remembered. I love you so so so so much pup! 🦮 💛."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.