Working DOGS That Change Lives
‘Knoxville’ is veteran Stefan LeRoy’s constant companion
The bond between people and dogs is ancient and mysterious. Scientists still debate when and how our two species got together, but nobody questions how important dogs have been to us over the centuries or how much joy they have brought us.
Eager to please by nature, dogs have found endless ways to prove themselves useful: helping in the hunt for food, protecting our livestock and crops from prey, guarding our homes from intruders. The furry friends profiled here prove that, even in this high-tech age, they have talents that no machine can match.
KNOXVILLE Veteran’s assistance dog Jupiter, Fla.
Stefan LeRoy, 25, was a cavalry scout serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan in 2012 when he stepped on an explosive device while carrying a wounded comrade to a medevac helicopter. He lost both of his legs, one below the knee, the other above.
Today, with the aid of several sets of prosthetic legs, LeRoy runs marathons and competes in triathlons. But when he’s wearing his legs, it’s difficult to bend over or squat down and pick up a dropped object. And after he’s taken them off for the night, it’s a challenge to cross the room and turn out the lights.
That’s where Knoxville comes in. The
2-year-old Labrador and golden retriever mix, raised and trained by the Santa Rosa, Calif.–based nonprofit Canine Companions for Independence, retrieves objects and paws light switches. He also pulls LeRoy’s wheelchair when he’s tired and cheers him on from the sidelines at athletic events. In fact, this competent canine responds to more than 40 commands. And that means one thing for LeRoy: peace of mind.
“I feel more comfortable with my disability knowing Knoxville is there,” LeRoy says. “He’s my constant companion.”
LeRoy plans to attend college this fall, where he hopes to study the engineering of prosthetics, a subject he’s become passionate about. Knoxville will be right by his side.