Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Soldier and His Service Dog

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Soldier and His Service Dog

Article excerpt

"The war took away the sight in one of my eyes, my arm, and the mobility in my legs, but when I got my service dog, Ruthie, I felt like a soldier again."

These words, so eloquently spoken by 22-year-old retired Sergeant Christopher Strickland, describe the close bond between him and his service dog, Ruthie.

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Chris was injured in Iraq by an improvised explosive device (IED). His mom and young wife rushed to his side at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and cared for his daily needs. Accustomed to being very independent, he decided to apply for a service dog to help him. When Ruthie arrived, he was able to send his mom and wife back home and move back into the barracks.

Ruthie was there to pick up anything he dropped and to act as a "walking cane," helping him to get around. She helped in other ways, too. When Chris was having a bad day and did not want to get out of bed, Ruthie would bring a toy to his bedside and "make" him get up.

Chris retired from the Army in January and moved back to Connecticut where he lives with his wife and infant son, Bradley. Chris takes care of Bradley and exclaims that "Ruthie is another parent." When Chris is holding his son, he sends Ruthie to the refrigerator to get a bottle for him. Ruthie does so and even closes the refrigerator door. Chris has said, "Ruthie is more valuable to me than my prosthetic arm."

With over 35,000 wounded veterans, service dogs like Ruthie will be in great demand. This new population of veterans with disabilities is young, athletic, and spirited. Many do not want canes and crutches or "typical" assistance devices but would rather have service dogs.

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What Types of Service Dogs Does the NEADS Program Train?

* Hearing dogs

* Social dogs

* Ministry dogs

* Walker/Balance dogs

* Service dogs for the classroom/therapy

* Service dogs

* Specialty dogs

* Therapy dogs

What Breed of Dog is a NEADS Dog?

NEADS trains all breeds and mixed breeds of dogs to help people who are hearing impaired or who have other physical disabilities live more independently. Most NEADS hearing dogs are rescued from animal shelters, while most service dogs are Golden or Labrador Retrievers donated by or purchased from breeders throughout the country. …

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