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Service dogs changing lives of veterans

August 21, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Service dogs are known to help people with disabilities. Now these dogs are providing independence and unconditional love to war veterans.Robert Davis is a triple amputee and a veteran of the Vietnam War. Over the last year he has lived alone with the assistance of Lance, a 3-year-old Labrador retriever.

"I dozed off and I had the remote sitting here and I dropped it, but you know subconsciously I heard it, but I didn't really wake up. The next thing I found out is he had picked it up for me," said Davis.

In the morning if Davis is slow to respond to the alarm clock, Lance's reaction is predictable.

"And what he does is he starts rooting like a pig or he'll grab this arm and he'll start to pull it," said Davis. "It's 'Dad, the alarm went off you've laid here, let's get up cuz I've got to go out and go potty, you've got to get my food ready.'"

Davis puts Lance on a treadmill twice a day to get proper exercise for a growing Lab.

The dog received his early training at the Canine Support Teams' training center in Menifee. A number of different breeds of good-tempered dogs receive months of training at the facility.

"We like to take them at eight weeks and then we have puppy raisers raise them until they're 18 months old so they can have a puppyhood," said Shara Butterfield, head trainer at Canine Support Teams. "They have to grow up, and then they go into advanced training."

Some of the advanced training is conducted in the women's prison near Chino.

"The Prison Pup Program has been in existence for seven years and we have 20 inmate trainers that work with the dogs," said Carol Roquemore, CEO of the Canine Support Teams.

Davis, a former Marine, said some of the most important support from Lance is emotional, especially when he's having a down day.

"He'll put his head next to me like 'Well I love you,'" said Davis.

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