Service dog helps injured veteran find balance
A Jefferson County veteran, who lost both his legs to a bomb blast in Iraq, has a new friend to lean on.
Smoky Mountain Service Dogs spent two years training Bella, a golden retriever, to be a mobility assistance service dog.
On Thursday they held a “Passing of the Leash” ceremony at Tellico Village Community Church in Loudon.
Smoky Mountain Service Dogs matched Bella with Sgt. Bradley Walker, a U.S. Marine veteran. In 2006, Walker lost both his legs in an IED blast in Iraq. He now uses prosthetic legs.
“There will be that loving– between a human and a dog but Bella will also assist Bradley in his gait, provide him balance when he’s walking, keep him from falling,” said Mike Kitchens, volunteer chair for Smoky Mountain Service Dogs.
According to Kitchens, the dogs are trained to help with simple tasks like picking up dropped items, turning light switches on/off, and grabbing drinks from the refrigerator.
After two years of training, Bella received about three months of training for Walker’s needs. Walker then spent two weeks training with Bella in Loudon County.
“Bella actually knows quite a few commands and she can do a wide variety of things,” he said.
During the ceremony, several different people who served as sponsors for Bella passed the leash until it reached Walker.
“When you see an animal that’s helping a wounded warrior, a veteran, somebody who gave an awful lot for this country, it is an emotional thing,” said Al Czachowski, who was Bella’s first sponsor with his wife, Sue Czachowski.
The couple had the honor of naming the golden retriever.
“I’m definitely feeling it. I’m definitely feeling it, without a doubt. Just amazing, everything,” Walker said.
Walker first met Bella during the groundbreaking of his new home in Dandridge, thanks to Homes for Our Troops. HFOT is in the process of building Walker’s specially adapted home.
According to Kitchens, Walker is the seventh injured veteran to receive a service dog through Smoky Mountain Service Dogs.
~ Via WBIR