Service dog carries on heroic legacy
As Rescue, a perky black Labrador retriever, investigated the Franklin Street fire station Thursday, it was clear the dog had no sense of the gravity of his duties and the namesake he carries.
An assistance dog from the Princeton-based nonprofit NEADS/Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, Rescue has been paired with Boston Marathon bombing victim Jessica Kensky and is named in honor of fallen Worcester Firefighter Jon D. Davies Sr.
Ms. Kensky and her husband, Patrick Downes, both lost their left legs while waiting at the finishing line at the marathon on April 15. They met with firefighters at the Franklin Street fire station Thursday fully aware of the significance of Rescue’s name.
“I feel we are part of carrying on his name and his legacy,” said Ms. Kensky, 32, now of Medford. “I feel it is our responsibility to know what happened, when it happened. I know when we met his trainer in the prison, he said this dog’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders and he doesn’t even know it.”
Ms. Kensky and her husband hugged Firefighter Davies’ partner, Firefighter Brian Carroll, as they entered the firehouse. They gave the station a painting of Rescue.
“To know that the dog is helping these two young people out is amazing,” said Firefighter Carroll who was injured in the building collapse that claimed the life of Firefighter Davies.
On Dec. 8, 2011, Firefighter Davies and his partner on Rescue 1, Firefighter Carroll, went into a burning house at 49 Arlington St. to search for someone they believed was still in the building. The back area of the three-decker collapsed, trapping both firefighters. Firefighter Davies, 43, died. Firefighter Carroll remained trapped under the rubble and was seriously injured.
“Once they explained the reason behind the name, it just made perfect sense,” Ms. Kensky said. “We felt so tied to so many first responders that day (April 15) so it just seemed it was meant to be.”
Lt. John G. Franco said $1,400 from the annual Worcester Firefighters Memorial 6K Race went to NEADS to pay for the naming of the dog. There have been six dogs named after Worcester firefighters with $1,400 donated for each. The race committee has given out roughly $450,000 to area nonprofit and community groups after 13 races.
“It hits home for us. It makes it all worthwhile,” Lt. Franco said. “When we see how face to face it touches someone’s life, it is incredible.”
NEADS announced in May the creation of Pawsitively Strong, a fund created to help place assistance dogs with Boston Marathon bombing victims who sustained physical injuries. The dogs are given out at no charge to the recipients. Donations from a Westwood family and Boston Duck Tours got the fund started.
Cathy Zemaitis, director of development for NEADS, said Ms. Kensky is the first marathon bombing recipient. “Like everybody else when the bombings happened, we thought what can we do,” she said. “What we could do was sitting right in our own backyard.”
The dogs are trained in prisons with Rescue being trained in Rhode Island. It costs between $25,000 and $30,000 to raise and train each dog. On the weekends, Rescue went home with Sharron Kahn Luttrell of Mendon.
Ms. Kensky, a California native who was working in Massachusetts as a nurse, went with her husband to the marathon the day of the bombings simply because it was a nice day.
“He just wanted to go, and it was a beautiful day,” she said. “We just wanted to go for a walk.”
They both lost their left leg in the explosion. The couple was about to go back to the West Coast where Mr. Downes accepted a fellowship in clinical psychology. Their plans changed because of rehabilitation and recovery.
When Ms. Kensky doesn’t wear her prosthetic leg, she uses a wheelchair. Rescue helps her turn off lights, fetch items and keep her balance. Inside the fire station she gave the firefighters a little demonstration.
Rescue grabbed a tissue when she pretended to sneeze. He grabbed a blanket when she said she was cold. “He (Rescue) just makes me smile and I can’t imagine not having him,” she said. “He’s a huge part of our healing.”
Her husband added, “I can tell it means a lot to these guys in this station. We’ve met a lot of firefighters who were there for us. To know that Rescue is named after someone who gave his life trying to save people, just like people who were willing to sacrifice their lives for us, it is a very humbling feeling.”
~ Via Telegram.com