How Service Dogs Help Amputees Build Their New Normal
Advocacy Meet Gary and his service dog, Halo. Their touching friendship can serve as an inspiration to others on their road to recovery after limb loss.
In June 2012, Gary’s world turned upside down — in every way — when the 3.5-ton forklift he was driving blew a tire and overturned, crushing him. Seven weeks later, he awoke in the hospital to learn he had lost his right arm and right leg in the accident.
A changing reality
Gary underwent extensive therapy and was fitted with prosthetics for his arm and leg. An active man, Gary worked hard to adapt to life as an amputee, but he developed overuse symptoms in his left arm and hand, and experienced challenges with his balance and mobility.
Gary’s life changed again — this time for the better — in 2015, when he was matched with Halo, a custom-trained service dog from Freedom Service Dogs of America (FSD). The Colorado-based nonprofit organization transforms shelter dogs into specialized service dogs for children, veterans and other adults with disabilities, all at no cost to its clients.
A helpful friend
“Wherever I go, I can always depend on Halo helping me somehow, some way.”
Service dogs at FSD are trained to assist clients with more than 50 tasks that increase the independence of their human partners, including opening and closing doors, picking up items, removing coats and shoes, retrieving items from the refrigerator or clothes dryer, and providing a brace for transfers into and out of wheelchairs.
Halo performs many tasks that reduce the strain on Gary’s left arm and hand, such as bringing his phone, keys and remote; opening doors; and turning on lights. She also accompanies Gary as he travels to local hospitals to share his story and provide encouragement to recent amputees. “I tell them it’s a tough road, but it does get better if you work hard.”
“Wherever I go, I can always depend on Halo helping me somehow, some way,” says Gary. “She knows when I’m hurting, and she helps me through the pain and keeps my spirits up. I’m very proud of us.”