week 39: this week i'm gonna... train a service dog
April 21, 2013 marks a day that Bostonians will forever remember where they were at 2:49 pm. Newlyweds Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky were cheering at the finish line of the Boston marathon -- right near one of the two bombs that exploded.
Patrick lost his left leg and Jess lost both of hers. Their story of love and perseverance has captivated people (just Google them, there are too many articles to link!), and they have since become two of the many faces associated with the marathon bombing.
There are many stories of heroism from that day; Jess herself was tending to the wounded (including Patrick) before she was notified that she was injured and on fire. We remember Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman in their infamous photo, Joe Andruzzi as he carried a woman to medical aid, the countless medical personnel that helped the wounded, the runners who continued to the finish line only to donate blood... these are just a few of the inspiring stories of humanity amidst the tragedy.
But there is also one quieter hero that has worked behind the scenes for the past few years, helping Jess to weather the countless surgeries and ongoing rehabilitation - her service dog, Rescue. Rescue was given to Jess by NEADS - Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, a few months after the bombing. NEADS has offered free service dogs to all Boston marathon survivors with a permanent physical disability.
“There was so much loss for us - our legs, our independence, our plans, my ability to work, Patrick’s fellowship, our apartment. You felt like you were being stripped of so many things,” says Jess. "Rescue was the first time we felt like something was being added back.”
At home, Rescue adapts his pace to Jess’s, whether he's by her side in the wheelchair or steadying her as she walks with her prosthetic legs. He uses his paws to press elevator buttons, he fetches items when they are dropped, he opens doors for her, and can even retrieve a cell phone with his teeth -- even if he drops it a few times and presses a few numbers in the process.
More importantly, Rescue helps Jess and Patrick stay physically active and has helped with their mental recovery. "To have a dog like him around, you laugh 10, 20, 50 times more a day, and you can't help but have that lift the mood," Patrick says. "And he's a huge cuddler. ... He's just constantly giving us hugs and kisses and entertaining us, and he's a wonderful gift in that way."
NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services, also known as Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans), was established in 1976 and offers a wide spectrum of Assistance Dog services, including:
- Deaf & Hearing Loss - hearing dogs that are specially trained to alert human partners to the source of a sound.
- Canines for Combat Veterans - designed to help the growing population of wounded veterans.
- Physical Disability - service dogs that assist people by performing everyday tasks like picking up dropped items, opening doors, and more.
- Classroom, Therapy & Ministry - uniquely trained dogs that engage and inspire a practitioner's community.
- Children with a Disability - service dogs for children that perform many of the same tasks as for adults.
- Children on the Autism Spectrum - social dogs that help a child on the autism spectrum feel calmer and more confident.
As of September 2016, NEADS has paired over 1,600 animals with clients. For more info on NEADS and their service dogs, please see the video below. (Brace yourself for some cute puppies!)
This past April, three years after losing his leg, Patrick completed the 120th Boston marathon with Jess and Rescue cheering him on.
He finished with a time of 5 hours and 56 minutes, and amazingly, he crossed the finish line at 2:49 pm. - the same time the first bomb exploded at the finish line in 2013.
You can watch Patrick and Jess's moving post-race interview below.
Notes for this week:
- September is National Service Dog Month!
- You can purchase your own Rescue T-shirt here! They also offer toddler and youth sizes.
- Our collective givetwig donation will support programs that offer life-changing partnerships to Service Dogs and their human partners.
- For further information regarding NEADS, please check out their website.
this week i'm gonna donate to NEADS.