Work­ing DOGS That Change Lives

‘Knoxville’ is vet­eran Ste­fan LeRoy’s constant com­pan­ion

Albuquerque Journal - Parade - - FRONT PAGE - By Greg Daugh­erty

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.

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