Thursday, December 17, 2009

NBC News Update on Polar the Service Dog


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When a paralyzing accident forces you to change how you live, sometimes it takes a four-legged companion to get 'day to day' life back to normal. Service Dogs of Virginia matches people with pooches, but in the recession donations are down.

With a watchful eye and a wagging tail, Polar can open doors or pick up dropped cell phones with a simple command.

"I'd be going down the road and I'd drop my phone," said Luke Morris, who owns a service dog. "And I had to go all the way home, get mom to come get my phone, or I couldn't get the door open and he solves all that. It's so nice."

About a year and a half ago, Luke Morris dove into a river and broke his back. He has limited movement in his arms, and he cannot move his legs. Service Dogs of Virginia, based in Charlottesville, gave Luke a yellow Lab named Polar for only a small placement fee.

"I like it," Morris said. "It's wonderful to be able to have him there and I don't have to worry about anything."

"Every little thing we take for granted, Luke has to think about now," explained Luke's mother, Linda Morris. "Polar can do those things for him."

"We want the dog to make huge difference," Service Dogs of Virginia founder Peggy Law said. "They will be a best friend but also a ticket to independence."

And that ticket is not cheap; it costs the organization about $18,000 to train Labs and Great Danes to be constant companions, guardians and helpers for people in need.

"Certainly the economy has taken its toll on us as a non profit," Law said.

The group relies on donations as well as families willing to foster these pups till they are ready for intense training.

"It's a gift of love to raise a puppy," Law said. "You do have to give them up, then you see a beautiful partnership."

These Pooches are helping people in a simple yet powerful way.

"Luke's had amazing support from friends and family," Linda Morris exclaimed. "Just having the dog there to do things and help and just be a companion is wonderful."

The group trains dogs to help people with mobility problems, diabetes, even children with autism.

Michelle McCarthy, Owner and Director of Training for K9 Home Schooling raised and trained Polar from 10 weeks of age until his return to Service Dogs of Virginia at 16months of age.

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