Being of Service -- It Works for Man and Dog

Zig Ziglar on

My daughter, Cindy, was observing therapy dogs at Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation in Dallas, Texas, in anticipation of doing volunteer work with her golden retriever, Emmitt, when she met an inspiring man named Rick Cox. Rick's determination and progress in the face of Guillian-Barre Syndrome, a disease that attacked the myelin sheath covering his nerves and left him paralyzed from the neck down, has been phenomenal. In just 16 months, Rick has weaned himself from the respirator, the bed and the wheelchair, and is presently getting around with the aid of a walker.

Rick contracted the virus while in Paris visiting with one of four foreign exchange students he and his wife, Chris, had housed in their home. The virus is extremely rare, affecting only one or two people out of 100,000, and the prognosis for recovery varies from patient to patient.

As part of his recovery process, Rick's therapist at Baylor introduced him to dog therapy. The first time Rick was visited by a therapy dog, the soft, familiar feeling of dog fur made him cry like a baby. He had been sorely missing his dog, Blue, and stroking a warm, loving dog took some of the sterility out of his terribly long hospital stay. The emotional lift he got from the therapy dogs was every bit as important as the physical gains he made by stroking the dogs and throwing balls for them to retrieve.

While at Baylor, Rick met a former patient who had a service dog from Canine Companions for Independence. The man told Rick about the huge need for Puppy Raisers to raise and train service dogs. This excited Rick, and as he spoke to patients in the hospital, many of whom were paralyzed, he realized that most knew nothing about the wonderful service dogs who could help them live more normal lives. He became even more determined to promote Canine Companions for Independence when he learned that a former patient, a quadriplegic, had hung himself. Rick's heart was touched, because he felt that a service dog could have made a difference in the man's life, so he took action.

Today, Rick and his wife, Chris, are part of a group of more than 500 proud Puppy Raisers for Canine Companions for Independence. Their days are kept interesting by a beautiful golden retriever puppy named Bob. Within a year to 18 months, Bob will go to Santa Rosa, California, for six months of extensive training, after which he will be matched up with his new owner, and the two of them will be put through an intensive, two-week "boot camp" where they will learn how to be a team. Since Rick and his wife pay the expenses, it is a huge sacrifice, but the smile on his face tells you that Rick feels it's worth it.


It is true that people don't have a dream -- the dream has them -- so when I say Rick took action -- I mean he took ACTION! Not only has he taken on raising Bob, he has turned his 50th birthday party into an opportunity to raise money for several charities, one of which is his beloved Canine Companions for Independence. He picked a 1950s theme, rented a hall and sent out invitations, explaining that a minimum $50 donation would be required for attendance. The response to his ingenious idea has been better than good.

It's Rick's fervent hope that when others learn of the benefits that go with service dogs, they will get involved. Canine Companions for Independence provides service dogs for people with physical disabilities, hearing dogs for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and facility dogs, similar to my granddog, Emmitt, who work with professional caregivers in hospitals, hospices and nursing facilities.


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