Boone, 39, who lost his lower left leg while
serving as a soldier in Afghanistan in 2011, holds
the leash to Brindle, his two-year-old
Labrador-golden retriever mix at Home Depot in
Irving, Texas on Sept. 3, 2014. He was part of a
group taking part in a field trip to learn how to
work their dogs in public.
ó Brian Boone is practicing his silly voice. The
39-year-old soldier, who lost his lower left leg while
serving in Afghanistan, looks down at Brindle, a
2-year-old Labrador-golden retriever mix ó and highly
trained service dog.
boy," says Boone. Sarah Koch, Brindleís trainer,
looks on. "I want you to get a little silly with
your praise," she says. Boone tries again. "Goooooood
booooooooy," he coos. Brindle looks up with doe
eyes at his new master and looks all too pleased with
and Boone are one of four teams united through a
partnership between Canine Companions for Independence
and Baylor Scott and White Health in Irving, Tex.. They
believe itís the first partnership between a service
dog organization and a health care system in the U.S.,
says Corey Hudson, CEO of Canine Companions.
costs $50,000 to train each service dog. Canine
Companions, based in Santa Rosa, Calif., typically
provides the service free of charge. In the new
partnership, Baylor Scott and White Health finds
patients who could benefit from having a service dog,
covers the cost of training the dogs and their owners,
and supports them once they are home.
a need for service dogs among their patients, says Joel
Allison, CEO of Baylor Scott and White Health. "It
ties in to our mission," he says. "We think of
it as part of our commitment to serve and meet the needs
of all the patients that we serve."
than 25,000 Americans use service dogs, according to
Assistance Dogs International, a coalition of assistance
dog organizations. The animals are trained to help
children and adults living with physical and mental
service dogs are able to sense oncoming seizures and
protect their owners from falls. Others help the
visually impaired. Dogs raised by Canine Companions are
trained to pull wheelchairs, pick keys off the floor and
tug off clothes.
Baylor-Canine Companions partnership began this week by
training four clients. The group plans to expand to 60
clients next summer when a specially built facility with
six rooms and 24 kennels will open in Irving.
is thrilled at his prescription for a dog. Lower back
pain makes it difficult for him to pick things up, and
he hopes Brindle will save him "lots of wear and
tear" on his back.
Boone was one of four Texans being matched with a
service dog. He was joined by Stacey Odom, 45, a special
education teacher; Melanie Knecht, 24, a music therapy
intern; and Mackenzie Dunckelman, 13.
were selected from hundreds of applicants because their
physical needs matched the help that Canine Companion
service dogs can offer.
Texas location saves Boone and his classmates a trip to
Canine Companionsí Southwest region campus in
Oceanside, Calif., for the weeklong training. "When
they told me that pretty much everything was here right
now that just was even more amazing," Boone says.
says he heard about Canine Companions through a friend
at the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical
Center in San Antonio, a program for soldiers who have
suffered burns or amputations.
friend has the same injury as me," he says.
"Heís a below-the-knee amputee, and I saw how
well-behaved and helpful his dog was."
was an explosives ordnance disposal officer when he was
injured in 2011. "Itís like the Army bomb
squad," he says. "We took care of improvised
was an IED that severed his left leg and damaged nerves
in both of his shoulders.
was unable to use his right arm for a year. Months of
rehabilitation and physical therapy helped him regain
some strength, but he hopes that working with Brindle
will make him even stronger.
recent morning, in a long classroom at Baylor Health
Center at Irving-Coppell, Brindle is joined by four
other Labrador-golden retriever mixes. (The fifth dog
serves as a backup in case one of the other dogs doesnít
pass muster.) All sit silently in their kennels at the
edge of the room looking out at Boone and his three
bark would mean instant failure. Only 40 percent of the
dogs raised by Canine Companions graduate from the
nine-month training program. The dogs that make it to
Texas are the cream of the crop.
everyone in the classroom needs a service dog for
themselves. Stacey Odom, a special education teacher
from Bullard, hopes a service dog will facilitate her
work with autistic children.
is the first to volunteer for the drills that Koch asks
the class to practice. The service dogs are taught at
least 40 commands and the new students must learn the
proper sequence of words to help the dogs respond.
Down. Donít! Down. Good girl!" says Odom to Illia,
a shiny black dog. "I just want to cuddle
her," says Odom. She fights the urge and instead
asks Illia to obey a second command. Illia obeys and
eagerly plants herself on the schoolteacherís foot.
and Boone have waited more than seven months for this
opportunity. Theyíre the lucky ones. Canine Companions
receives more than 100 applications a month, says Simi
Balter, program manager at the organizationís
Southwest regional office.
get to witness small miracles," says Balter. She
recalls a child with learning difficulties who, having
never spoken before, uttered his first word to a service
dog. Then there was the stroke victim who moved a
previously paralyzed arm to stroke a service dog.
isnít asking for a miracle. But he says itís not
just physical tasks that Brindle will help him with ó
itís the mental task of healing. "Dogs are very
soothing," he says. "Especially these calm
dogs. Just being around them brings your spirit up. Thatís
hard to beat."