"A breed of satin and steel. Pit bulls are a mixture of softness and strength, an uncanny canine combination of fun, foolishness, and serious business, all wrapped up in love."

-D. Caroline Coile

Monday, July 11, 2011

Family Pet Gets Trained to Become Service Dog

We all like to think of our family pets just as that, part of the family. But for local veteran Kimberly Cunningham, her "man's best friend" goes even further than that.

Cunningham and her 5-year-old daughter rescued the pitbull mix Beans two years ago. Their bond might initially seem just like any other four legged and two legged friendship. On a typically Sunday afternoon Beans is hanging out on Kim's lap, just enjoying being petted by her owner.

"She's a lap dog. She's a snuggler. And she has to just be with you all the time," Kim says.

The bond between Beans and Cunningham reaches far beyond the realm of just a lap dog, though. Kimberly has severe post traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD.

"It's inside and it's a very terrifying thing for me it's traumatizing on a daily basis. I want to be so normal and it's just not there," Kim explains.

That's where the 2-year-old rescued pit bull comes in. About a month ago, Kim read about Canine Angels, a local group that adopts dogs and then trains them for PTSD veterans. Rather than give Kim another dog, she thought maybe Beans could undergo training.

For about the past month, the family dog has been training to become Kimberly's service dog. She says the strong bond between human and pet is what makes the training so easy.

"She picked up on it right away, and it was pretty incredible to watch him work with her and then deal with me," she says.

Rick Kaplan, the owner of Canine Angels says this is the first time he has ever trained a pet that was already in the family, but Beans took to training very quickly. Already the dog's presence is already a calming force to Kim's symptoms like anxiety and panic attacks.

Kim says even though she rescued Beans as a nine week old puppy, Beans is the one giving her a one of the greatest gifts of all.

"Beans will be able to give me my life back. I realize that there's a light at the end of the tunnel and with her I know I will eventually have a life again."

By Lindsey Theis

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