Wounded Veterans Get Furry Best Friends

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Five service dogs who will help military heroes graduated from their Patriot Paws training program. (Published Friday, May 10, 2013)

    Five service dogs are embarking on a new life with military veterans.

    Patriot Paws trains service dogs to help injured veterans.

    Sgt. Delano Smith said his dog, Cory, is a lifeline.

    "Like, this is my bubble; she is my lifeline to bring me outside my bubble," he said.

    It was love at first sight for Delano and his new best friend.

    "When Cory broke loose and ran to my husband and just jumped up and loved on him, that was our prayer answered," said his wife, Melissa Smith.

    Delano Smith was severely wounded in Iraq while serving in a striker brigade.

    "I was blown up twice," he said. "The Humvee was blown up about six to seven feet and when it came down, it went up into flames."

    He has trouble walking and with balance. Cory also heals invisible wounds such as post-traumatic stress disorder and flashbacks.

    "It means a lot to me to have Cory in my life, because Cory is going to be that crutch I can lean on and not so much on her," he said.

    At a graduation ceremony Friday, Patriot Paws celebrated the 55th pairing since the group started its mission about six years ago.

    "It means it's working," founder Lori Stevens said. "What it means is that everyone is helping us give back to them, and they've done so much."

    "We didn't know that when we were got the dog, that we were getting a new family," Melissa Smith said.

    The service dogs are rescued from shelters and trained by inmates. The training process takes up to two years.