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PLANO, Texas (AP) — Missy, an abandoned German shepherd, was given a new life earlier this year when Plano Animal Shelter employee Jackie Konold adopted her and began training her as a service dog.
Now the 3-year-old canine will help a former U.S. Army medic cope with the stress that comes from years of treating injured soldiers.
"She'll be a great addition to our home and will give back to other warriors as well," Michael Barker told The Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/1mN6m4H) when he was given Missy at a small ceremony last week at the Plano Animal Shelter.
The presentation was made by Jeff Anderson, founder of Rebuilding Warriors, a California-based organization that provides service and companion dogs to active-duty and honorably discharged veterans suffering from physical injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder.
"Mike was recommended for a dog from three different people," said Anderson, a former law enforcement officer who started the organization in 2012.
Parting with Missy was a bittersweet moment for Konold, a kennel technician who spotted the dog when she was brought to the Plano shelter in February.
Missy, who was found in Lawton, Okla., was suffering from heartworms and was scheduled to be euthanized. Luckily, the friendly stray was sent to the Plano shelter to see if a permanent home could be found.
Konold was impressed by Missy's calm demeanor and sociable manner. "She loves being around people," said Konold, who has spent months training Missy for the Rebuilding Warriors program.
The dog was trained to be an obedient and soothing companion for someone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Konold said.
Barker, 34, joined the Army in 1999. After completing training as a medic and physical therapy technician, he served in Louisiana, Colorado and Germany helping thousands of soldiers who had lost limbs or suffered debilitating head injuries and other types of trauma.
It takes a toll on medical caregivers. "It's traumatic to see that day in and day out," said Barker, who got out of the Army in 2007 but continues to work with disabled patients at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
He also works with veterans and military members as coach of the San Antonio Wheelchair Spurs basketball program.
Now Missy will be at Barker's side helping wounded warriors rebuild their lives.
"Missy will provide support for me," he said. "And I've gotten permission for her to go to work with me."
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com
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