A service dog is more than just an animal you purchase to help you complete daily tasks or get through life’s struggles. They become an extension of yourself and your family. Sometimes they can even treat an illness better than any medicine.
After a traumatic event, one man from California searched the local shelters in hopes of finding himself an emotional support dog. If he could just find the one that could mend his broken bones, everything would be alright… but unfortunately, his problems were just beginning.
Justin Scott, from Santa Clarita, California, had a tough job. As an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), he’d experienced a lot of amazing moments, but also instances of immense pain. Luckily, he didn’t have to face the tough moments alone.
For starters, his wife Sara was also an EMT. Together, they shared the same desire to help people and make a difference in their community. It’s a no-brainer that they gravitated towards each other.
One day while on duty, Justin and his crew responded to a standard 911 emergency. Except there was something very different about this call. Justin knew the person in crisis…
It was one of his best friends. Despite their best efforts, Justin and the fellow EMTs were unable to save him — they simply ran out of options. The guilt crushed Justin and affected him in a way that he didn’t think was possible.
The tragic event left Justin depressed and struggling to cope with the failure that cost his friend his life. Darkness consumed him, but not before he recognized that he needed help. It was time to make a change.
Sara and Justin thought an emotional support dog could help the healing process. Justin shared in a Facebook post, “We waited until we found the perfect dog for us.”
Atlanta Dog Training
As they scanned rows of dogs, they noticed this short-legged, pointy-eared dog named Shelby gazing back at them. The moment they looked into her eyes, it was a done deal. Shelby was officially a part of the Scott family.
Sara Adcock / Facebook
“I looked at her still in the shelter parking lot,” Justin recalled of the day they met, “and told her, ‘I saved you, and now I need you to save me,’ and she did. She pulled me out of the grips of hell.”
To Justin, the dog was his guiding light and best friend. They did everything together, so it’s no surprise that the dog also accompanied Justin, Sara, and their two boys on family vacations.
Sara Adcock / Facebook
They packed up the car and traveled six hours for a Fourth of July camping trip in the Sierra Mountains. It was supposed to be a fun-filled weekend, but not long after arriving, Justin’s worst nightmare became a reality.
For an unknown reason, Shelby became spooked. slipped out of her collar, and ran to the tree line for protection. Justin knew these woods; they were harsh and deadly. He needed to find her. He couldn’t fail another best friend.
After searching the immediate area, they needed to call off the mission as nighttime fell upon them. That didn’t mean they were giving up, though. They set out food traps overnight, but Shelby didn’t come back.
But a number of bears did pay a visit to the campsite that night. Justin feared that Shelby would be no match against such merciless wild animals. He would save her, though, he thought, because she had saved him.
Sara Adcock / Facebook
Shelby was missing for 13 days and Justin had not a single lead as to where she was. He didn’t even know if she was alive. The Scott family reached out to a nonprofit, A Way Home For Animals, for help.
He connected with Babs Fry, founder of the nonprofit, and explained what had happened. Determined to reunite Justin and Shelby, Babs got in the car and drove to meet up with the Scotts.
They began with initial attempts of connecting with the town and surrounding communities to determine when and where Shelby was last seen. They posted signs, spoke with the camp host and general store owner, and made it clear who to contact if Shelby were to turn up.
Justin expressed his torment in a message on Facebook: “Shelby, you sat by my side and laid in my lap until I could stand on my own. We will get you back; we will never give up on you. I saved you once, and we will save you again.”
Twenty-four hours later, they finally received a tip. Shelby was spotted about 3.5 miles south of the campsite. Babs immediately carried out a survey of the area to locate possible food, water, and shelter spots that Shelby might be hanging around.
Babs also set out five traps with the hopes of enticing Shelby out of the woods. They waited for days hoping that Shelby would show up, but she never did. Days turned into weeks, and Justin’s faith began to break.
Finally, another call came in. Someone saw Shelby in a nearby area. Babs rushed to the location and set out the traps once more. She was determined to reunite Justin and Shelby. After 45 minutes, something amazing happened.
Babs Fry / Facebook
Shelby walked right into the trap! Upon initial inspection, Shelby appeared to be in good health — other than being a little dirty. Babs was thrilled to deliver Justin some good news for once.
On reunion day, a hesitant Shelby stood in front of the family, almost as if she couldn’t believe it was really them. But like the flip of a switch, all of the sudden her stumpy tail began to wiggle and she showered them with kisses.
Justin Scott / Facebook
Deep down, Shelby knew her family didn’t abandon her as she laid in Justin’s lap, gazing up at him with unconditional love. It was the longest 28 days of Justin’s life, but he couldn’t have been more grateful to have his family member back.
Justin Scott / Facebook
Anyone who owns a dog can tell you there are few greater feelings in the world than earning a few of their sloppy kisses or gentle nuzzles. Yet dogs can offer so much more than comfort and love, and that is especially true for service dogs like Shelby.
Shelby is a service dog to 11-year-old Bella Burton of Woburn, Massachusetts. To say life was unfair for her would be an understatement. Diagnosed with Morquio syndrome, Bella was forced to walk on crutches or use a wheelchair to get around — at least before she met Shelby.
The syndrome made it impossible for Bella to process certain sugar molecules that acted as lubricants or shock absorbers in her body. As a result, she had decreased mobility and a slew of other nasty symptoms. It affected her mood, too…
Boston Children’s Hospital
“I’m just like, ‘I don’t want this anymore,'” Bella told BarkPost. She couldn’t ride a bike; she couldn’t run. She couldn’t play the way that other kids her age did. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of Bella’s heartbreaking situation.
Since Morquio syndrome was a progressive disease, it would only get worse as time went by; it was safe to say that Bella wasn’t getting better anytime soon. But then, mercifully, her fortune started to change…
“We had volunteered up at Service Dog Project for a little over a year,” Bella’s mother, Rachel, said. And that was where Bella first met an unlikely pal: a 130-pound Great Dane named George.
Steve and KAte’s Camp / YouTube
“One day Bella climbed up with George,” added Megan Korkaras, a trainer at Service Dog Project. “And the next thing you know, his head was in her lap, and he was just looking up at her like she was the best thing in the whole world.”
BARK / YouTube
Evidently, Bella noticed George’s affection, too. “I could tell he needed me,” Bella said. “And I needed him.” Delighted, the Burton family brought George home for the weekend to test the waters. Soon enough, he became Bella’s full-time service dog—with unbelievable results.
BARK / YouTube
With George, Bella only needed one crutch because the Great Dane himself served as the other! “I lean on him,” Bella explained. “He helps me walk. If I fall, I tell him ‘Brace!’ which means he will stand and won’t even budge, and I can pull myself up.”
BARK / YouTube
This feat wasn’t just visually impressive; it also strengthened Bella’s legs. The service dog even accompanied her to weekly enzyme replacement therapy. Rachel, of course, was delighted at the effect George’s presence was having on her daughter.
“We never thought she would be off crutches,” Rachel said. “And now she will go in the yard and play, even without George. To see how much stronger she’s gotten is awesome.” For Bella, there were no words to describe her feelings to George—but she tried.
“He’s always there for me,” she said. “And whenever I’m feeling sad or something, he’s always there. He knows, he just kind of comes over and leans over me… I pretty much love everything about him.”
The unlikely duo never left each others’ sides. Even at school, George knew where all of Bella’s classes were and took naps in the back of the room while she sat at her desk! It was easy to see how this fundamentally changed the little girl…
“Bella was never really shy, but [George has] given her more confidence,” Rachel told People magazine. “She feels she fits in better with her peers than when she was on crutches or a wheelchair. She feels more confident about herself.” Naturally, Bella wanted to show her appreciation for her beloved pal.
So, her heart bursting with appreciation for her 130-pound savior, Bella entered George into BarkPost’s “Dog’s Best Day” contest. “George deserves this day,” Bella said, “because he works extremely hard.” But did this big lug stand a chance to win?
You betcha! After dubbing him the winner, the online publication rewarded George for his life-changing dedication to Bella. Their celebration of the Great Dane started at an unusual place, too: a burger joint!
BARK / YouTube
“George does not get to have people food because he is a service dog,” Bella said. But on his best day ever, all rules were waived—he got a tray of burgers all to himself! The best part? George’s best day ever was only just beginning!
BARK / YouTube
Next, organizers for George’s best day shut down an entire mountain for him and Bella. Being a playful pup, George went completely nuts, sprinting around in the snow like a madman and skipping beside Bella’s sled. It was hard to believe his day could get better…
BARK / YouTube
Bella and George then visited the canine equivalent of a candy store where George munched on treats and chewed on a bone so large there was no chance it ever belonged to an actual animal. The Great Dane was living a well-earned dream.
BARK / YouTube
“George is joyful,” Bella said of her dog. “And he’s always happy, and he’s always there to cheer you up.” Then, with all the confidence in the world, she added, “George is my best friend.”
BARK / YouTube
And animals like George have a lot to teach us. Oliver Gibbons lived in the coastal town of Devon, England, where he frequently took walks through the town’s market area with his dog, Sydney. Sydney wasn’t just a loyal dog; Oliver’s well-being actually depended on her.
Sydney was well-behaved and spent most of her life with Oliver. She was his seeing-eye dog. Oliver was blind, and Sydney helped him navigate the world he could not see.
All too often, blind people don’t get enough exercise because they’re hesitant to make their way around, but it’s important they do explore the world. Oliver took frequent walks, but on one afternoon, he faced an unfortunate dilemma.
When Oliver and Sydney took their strolls through downtown Devon, they usually stopped at a small eatery or coffeehouse before heading back home. Places in Devon were usually great about letting dogs hang out with their owners.
So why, he figured, would local coffee chain Caffe Nero be any different? Well, when Oliver asked for a bowl of water for Sydney, the server refused. Oliver immediately left, feeling completely disrespected and embarrassed.
When he returned home, he told the whole awful story to his good friend, Helen Fox. Helen helped Oliver with day-to-day living, and she was irate when she heard how Caffe Nero treated her friend. So she paid them a visit.
She expressed her disgust with the manager, and while they did understand her frustration, they explained having dog bowls in the restaurant was a health violation. This didn’t fly with Helen.
She took to social media and shared her anger. Eventually word reached the RSPCA, who contacted Helen. They were exactly the kind of people Helen needed on her side. They wrote a very concerned letter.
“It’s extremely concerning to hear that a coffee shop refused to provide drinking water for a service dog whose handler was a customer,” the letter read. “We would expect all businesses to show kindness and compassion towards all animals, but particularly to service dogs.”
Caffe Nero was lucky Oliver didn’t take them to court over the incident, because he had every right to. Unfortunate instances like this happening to blind folks all over, but communities never really found out. One man sought to change that.
His name is Amit Patel. The 37-year-old London resident was a doctor up until 2012, when he lost his vision due to a degenerative disease. He, too, has a trusty dog to help him.
Her name is Kika, and she helps him navigate his way through the bustling London subways almost every day. As talented and knowledgeable as Kika is, their journeys together are rarely problem-free
Even though it’s obvious Amit is blind, people are so concerned with themselves they don’t take the time to understand he does things a bit slower. Commuters are often quick to get impatient with them both.
So Amit had a great idea. People truly had no idea what he and Oliver Gibbons went through on a daily basis, so he got himself a GoPro camera. With the help of his wife, he strapped it to Kika’s back.
Then they were off for their morning adventure! Not only would Amit now have the chance to show the world the struggle of blind people, but he also hoped it could lead to more compassion.
Just as expected, the camera picked up footage of people bumping their way past Amit with no regard for his safety. Some were even rude to Kika! But there was something else that actually brought Amit to tears.
At one point, he entered a crowded subway, and believe it or not, not a single rider gave up their seat for him. Amit was forced to find something to brace himself on, and it was even worse for Kika.
Usually the dog would sit underneath his legs so she wouldn’t bother anyone, but she had to sprawl out in the middle of the subway car, which only further annoyed people. It was a shocking experience to say the least.
Luckily, Amit made it home safely. He put the footage on YouTube, and just like he expected, people were upset over what they saw. He hoped the experiment brought about a more patient and inclusive attitude for him and others like him.
Service dogs do wonders helping the blind go about their day without the fear of suffering an accident. But, one blind man named Daniel Kish actually taught himself something that completely alleviated his need for a dog.
Although life gave him lemons at a very young age, Daniel Kish has overcome major setbacks, created a scientific breakthrough, and has inspired thousands of people with his optimism.
When Kish was still an infant, he developed retinoblastoma, a type of cancer that attacks the cochlea. Before his first birthday, both of his eyes were removed to keep him alive, and he was left completely blind.
Kish never wanted to go the sunglasses route, so to avoid stares from strangers, he received prosthetic eyes. They could not help him see, but he found his own loophole around that.
After one of Kish’s many surgeries, he woke up in the intensive care nursery. The blind boy climbed out of his crib and began to wander the halls of the hospital. Without any type of assistance, he managed not to bump into a single thing…
As a toddler, he once woke up in the middle of the night, got out of bed, walked towards his window, opened it without hesitation, and climbed out of it into the yard. Clearly, this didn’t satisfy his curiosity, because he continued to hop the fence and sneak onto his neighbor’s property.
Although the neighbors didn’t press charges against the blind, 2-year-old trespasser, he did cause quite a ruckus. When a police officer returned him safely to his parents, they couldn’t believe what had happened. What 2-year-old, let alone a blind one, can hop several fences in the middle of the night?
People soon began to realize how exactly Kish was getting around without hurting himself. He was making continuous clicking noises with his tongue as he moved about. Doing this makes an echoing sound in your mouth, but also creates an echo in the environment.
This echo hits nearby objects and walls and bounces back, similar to the sonar of a bat. Echolocation is not common in humans because those who can see can’t hear well enough, but when one loses a sense, the others strengthen.
Kish is a man who likes to be alone but is also brave and adventurous. He likes to help others and has fought off quite a few bullies in his youth. The combination of his ability to use echolocation and his similar personality of comic book character Bruce Wayne has rendered Kish the nickname “bat-man”.
As he practiced his skill over the following years, Kish became more and more independent. He never had a seeing eye dog or a cane but attended a regular school, went on walks, and even began riding a bike, which he learned by practicing in a straight line along a wall.
Perhaps he got a bit too confident or overly excited because Kish ended up crashing through some trash cans and smashing into a metal pole once. It was a violent collision, but he kept his head up. Certainly, it wouldn’t be the only dangerous activity he would get into.
Kish did experience much success with his education, however. In high school, he was voted “best brain” and “most likely to succeed”. He then went off to college and obtained a degree in psychology and special education at the University of California.
As he got older, Kish’s love for exploring did not die out – in fact, it only grew. With his other senses heightened, he came to truly appreciate scents and sounds, especially those of nature. He even began to take up hiking!
Kish quickly fell in love with nature and solitude. So in 2003, he purchased a cabin deep in the California woods. From there he could easily hike into the forest. He said the only company there was a family of mice.
Being a bit of a lone wolf, Kish never had any intimate relationships, but he did experience heartbreak of a kind. He had a wood-burning stove built in the cabin, but unsafe materials were used for the chimney, and as a result, his beloved cabin burned down to the ground.
Kish’s spirit seems nearly unbreakable, because, despite the loss of his beloved cabin, he stayed positive, and began teaching others his method of echolocation. He often began by holding a glass plate next to his students to teach them how to guide themselves without a cane or service dog.
Most of his teaching was done through Kish’s own organization, called World Access For The Blind — an international, educational, non-governmental non-profit. Its goal is to raise awareness of the capability of blind people and to support them physically and psychologically.
Certain members of the blind community claim that Kish’s method takes too long to learn with little payoff and that it could even put some in danger. Others are big fans, and grateful to Kish for his teachings. In 2015, he was asked to give a TED talk, in which he urged everyone to stop fearing the dark and the unknown.
Kish has now worked with many blind children and young adults, who are currently teaching echolocation to others. A method that started with one man has already begun to spread and evolve, and could even become a standard method of getting around for the blind community.
Daniel Kish is currently attempting to find a way to create bat-like sound waves that blind people can hear. What we hear is a bright future ahead for many blind people, thanks to this real-life Batman.