We already know that dogs are man’s best friend. They provide an added comfort to come home to after a long day at work and they show us what genuine love and appreciation really looks like. Some dogs, however, take this to a whole new level.
Service dogs, as well as therapy dogs, are trained to help humans deal with both emotional and physical challenges. They are irreplaceable in their ability to provide safety and relief to those individuals who need it most. These furry companions have saved countless lives and continue to do unbelievable things for their humans. Here is a list of some of our favorite stories that prove just how heroic these dogs really are.
A car accident left a young boy named Caleb very badly injured. He broke bones in his leg and arm and his recovery was a long and slow process. That is before Colonel came to the rescue. The loving golden retriever completely changed Caleb’s road to recovery.
During his therapy sessions, he would always push harder and do more than doctors ever imagined he could, as long as Colonel was in the room. Thanks to his pup, Caleb was able to recover and live a normal life once more.
Audrey Stone is legally blind and relies on her golden retriever, Figo to keep her safe. Figo does not take this job lightly. One day, on their daily walk, Audrey and Figo were crossing the street when Figo noticed that a minibus was heading their way. He did not hesitate to soften the blow for Audrey by standing between her and the oncoming bus.
They suffered from injuries, but both recovered. “I remember Figo standing there looking at me, trying to get close to me, but he didn’t know what to do because he knew I was hurt.” Figo is a real super-dog!
Adorable 6-year-old, Meghan Cawley has mobility issues that make it difficult for her to maintain balance. This does not keep Meghan from doing what she loves most, dancing. Meghan’s new best friend, a goldendoodle named Stax, helps her stay stable by wearing a harness for her to hold on to. He keeps her steady throughout the day. “It is nothing short of miraculous,” Meghan’s mother said about Stax.
”When he hears her crying, it’s like he puts on wings and goes right to her, comforting her. He just knows that is his job.” The pair have also formed an emotional bond that helps uplift Meghan’s spirit and keeps her dancing every day.
After returning from Iraq in 2005, Veteran Don Harvill suffered from PTSD and relied heavily on alcohol and medication to cope with the symptoms. More than a decade later, Don finally took the step to find a more productive solution. He soon found out that the key to his healing was a loving golden labrador and mastiff mix named Sierra. Sierra senses when is stressed and comes to his side to ease his anxiety.
“She has changed my life,” Harvill said. “When I left the military, you lose part of it. But now it’s like I have it with her. She’s got my back at all times.” Don’s wife, Amy says that after Sierra came into their lives, her husband is a different man from the one that could barely get out of bed before. She says Sierra gives him purpose.
Elsa, the dog, had a rough upbringing filled with abuse and neglect. At one-year-old, the poor thing suffered an injury that left her back legs barely functional. Thanks to her carer, Kelly Dann, Elsa got a new chance in life and after months of physical therapy, started to give back.
Elsa spends her days visiting long-term care patients in hospitals. Although she still can’t use her hind legs, she is fit with a special cart that helps her move around from patient to patient. In 2013, Elsa won and Animal Hero Award from the British Columbia Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Pit bulls don’t have the best reputation, but Hector is determined to change that. He had a rough start to his life, spending his first two years participating in a dog fighting ring, but thankfully he got a second chance.
After a couple in Minnesota adopted Hector, he trained to pass the Canine Good Citizen test and proudly became a therapy dog. Hector committed to his new title, visits patients in hospitals and nursing homes as well as children in schools, teaching them how to be safe around dogs.
Justin has health issues that make it very difficult for him to communicate. This struggle also causes anxiety and stress in his day to day life. His mother Allison brought Pivy, a charcoal black lab, to help Justin through the day.
Allison explains, “Pivy came into Justin’s life at a time when he struggled with anxiety all the time. This made the world around him scary and unpredictable. It was a place where he didn’t know what to expect or how to respond.” With Pivy by his side, Justin began to communicate better and his anxiety decreased drastically. He could now experience joy and laughter as any little boy should.
This adorable German shepherd is a companion to Marine veteran Chris Galliher. “I got Raider when I felt like I was in a dark cave and there was no chance of seeing the light again, and getting him was like having a little glint of hope.”
Raider helps Chris with his anxiety. He can sense when Galliher is in need of attention and comes up to nuzzle him. Galliher says that Raider reminds him every day that everything is going to be OK.
This adorable dog might not be trained as a service dog but has managed to help countless lives with his calming presence none the less. Colleen, a marriage family therapist adopted Murray when he was about two years old. Murray was a shy shelter dog that immediately stole Colleen’s heart. She soon discovered that many others would feel the same connection with the little guy.
Colleen started bringing Murray to her therapy sessions, where she works with people suffering from a variety of emotional issues. Apparently, Murray was a natural therapist himself. He sensed the energy of a person and anyone who would get upset or cry, Murray would go over and comfort them. One patient said, “Murray has helped me get through some of the most difficult times, as he sat next to me in Colleen’s office.”
Marine Dan Lasko returned home from serving overseas and had some issues readjusting to civilian life. He had lost his leg during combat and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. “I was always looking over my shoulder, thinking that something’s gonna happen,” Lasko said when explaining his anxiety.
It was keeping him from living a normal life. That’s when Wally came into the picture. Wally helps Lasko with daily activities that might otherwise be difficult due to his prosthetic leg. He also helps Dan cope with anxiety. “Wally’s taught me patience, he taught me loyalty, he taught me how to be myself again.”
This little boy was struggling in social environments and his mom, Shanna wanted to help him. She said that he had difficulty allowing people, including her, to touch him. This made daily activities like dressing, bathing and even hugging very difficult for both her and her son. She wanted to find a way to make her son more comfortable so she introduced Tornado to the family.
Shana was overwhelmed with happiness due to the changes that Tornado made for her son. “It’s worth every dollar spent, every paper filled out, every school meeting, every shed tear, every step forward, every step back, and every wonder of the unknown future. Somehow because of this — because of Tornado — I know everything will be okay,”
This black lab named Jumah visits an elementary school in Brooklyn every day. Here you can see first-graders in the special education program sit together to read a book. One teacher spoke of Jumah saying, “The dog doesn’t judge them; he doesn’t care if they make mistakes, so they feel more comfortable.”
The speech therapist of the program uses Jumah to motivate the kids by having them practice telling him commands and using direct eye contact with him. Jumah is also utilized to teach social-emotional learning.
When Madison was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, she knew her life would never be the same. Although manageable at first, her health declined and she was afraid to live alone in fear that something might happen to her in the middle of the night. Willy was her knight in golden armor. The 2-year old golden retriever became her 24/7 companion.
Willy, trained to sniff out dangerous blood sugar levels, can detect a drop in blood sugar even before Madison’s glucose monitor. With Willy around, Madison has a new sense of adventure; “I used to be so afraid of my disease that I’d stay home, but with Willy around, I have a new sense of safety and confidence. I’m more social. And I’m finally getting my passport so I (and by I, I mean we) can start traveling.”
Lexy, a German Shepard originally trained as a guard dog, is an integral part of the Fort Bragg military installation. Her handler, Major Christine Rumayor noticed Lexy’s cuddly personality and changed her role from guard dog to therapy dog.
She now gives comfort to soldiers during therapy sessions, helping them to relax and open up more. Lexy is so essential that she even holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. She also meets with soldiers around the base, outside of therapy sessions.
Since he was young, Iyal had trouble focusing and would get overwhelmed from the smallest tasks. His hyperactivity meant he needed to be watched at all times which was very hard for his parents to manage. That is until Chancer came into their lives. The beautiful golden retriever, specially trained to provide the care and attention that Iyal needed, stood by Iyal’s side throughout his childhood.
Now, Iyal is 20 years old and attending college, which is an achievement his parents never thought possible. Iyal brought his best friend, Chancer to live with him on campus. Sounds like Chancer will be a great roomie.
Xander was just a puppy when he lost eyesight in both his eyes. Going blind, however, did not affect his lively, fun-loving personality. Now as a therapy dog, he specializes in helping children who have suffered from mistreatment.
Xander is very calming for the kids and he proudly spreads the message of strength and perseverance. Even the children who are afraid of dogs find comfort in Xander and his outgoing personality.
After the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, many of the children felt traumatized from the incident. Samantha Kuric had an especially hard time getting over this trauma and was afraid to leave the house. Her mom decided to take her to a school for comfort and therapy dogs and that is where she met Spartacus.
The pair were inseparable and have maintained a strong bond since then. Spartacus helped heal Samantha’s emotional scars and showed her how to feel safe again. Spartacus and other dogs like him even inspired a law in Connecticut requiring that all crisis victims be given access to certified dogs within 24 hours.
For Bella, the easiest tasks sometimes prove difficult due to her rare genetic condition affecting her bones. Until she met her best friend George, she could not get around without a wheelchair or crutches.
George is a 131-pound service dog. Bella is able to lean on George wherever she goes. With Georges help, Bella is able to go to school, the gym and after-school activities with less struggle. He serves as both a physical and emotional crutch as Bella is finally able to feel like she is free to live a normal life.
12-year-old Corrine was struggling to live a normal life. Growing up with epilepsy meant she couldn’t go anywhere without a supervisor. This was deeply affecting Corrine and exhausting her parents. Corrine’s younger sister, Carly also felt like she was always responsible for keeping her sister safe.
So they decided to adopt Rory, a fun loving 18-month old Goldendoodle trained to recognize the scent a body gives off when the brain is in a seizure. Rory and Corrine had an instant connection and from then one spent every waking minute together. Corrine’s family now feel at ease that Rory is always watching over their little girl.