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A wounded vet and black lab become partners

  • Iraq war veteran Andrew Pike rewards his service dog Yazmin with verbal praise and pets after she successfully completed a task at Canine Companions for Independence on Wednesday, November 18, 2009.

They just met this month, but Andrew Pike, a wounded Iraq war veteran, and Yazmin, a 2-year-old black Labrador, are pals.

They?re going to be partners for years to come, with Yazmin, a trained service dog who responds to 40 verbal commands, making Pike?s life in a wheelchair a little easier.

?I didn?t know you could get attached to a dog so quickly,? said Pike, 23, a former Army specialist paralyzed from the waist down by a sniper?s bullet two years ago in Iraq.

Andrew Pike And Yasmin


Pike, who lives in Kimberly, Idaho (population 2,477), and Yazmin will graduate on Saturday along with 11 other disabled person-and-dog teams trained at Canine Companions for Independence in Santa Rosa.

The nonprofit founded here in 1975 has trained more than 3,200 dogs to assist disabled children and adults, including 44 service veterans.

Pike, who works as a substitute teacher and is attending a community college, said Yazmin will help him gain independence.

Should he drop his wallet, keys or even a credit card on the ground, on the command ?get? Yazmin will retrieve it.

Told to ?pull,? the obedient Lab, fitted with a harness, will tow Pike in his non-motorized wheelchair if his hands are full.

Commanded to ?tug,? she will pull open a door with a rope attached to the handle.

The dogs, raised in volunteers? homes, are trained by the agency for six to nine months, and ? if deemed suitable for the work ? paired with disabled people for two weeks of team training.

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