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Kim Johnson ReportingIndependence Day, July 4th, is still a couple of weeks away. But today is a personal independence day for a Utah resident.
23-year old Zachary Wilcox suffers from duchenne muscular dystrophy, he lost the ability to walk when he was just twelve. Now he gets around in a motorized wheelchair. But thanks to Smiths grocery stores and Kraft Milkbone, he's going to gain even more independence with a furry friend named Tom.
Judy Moore-Padgett, Canine Assistance: "They can turn on and off lights, open doors, retrieve items, push elevator buttons, pull wheelchairs. We have some dogs out there whose owners have taught them to take out laundry from the drier, as well as pull up sheets on their bed."
Canine Assistance, based in Atlanta, raises and trains service dogs from the time they're born. The organization places about 70 dogs a year with people who suffer some type of disability.
Canine assistance only uses golden retrievers, labs, and gold-lab mixes, because they're so friendly in public -- friendly and helpful. Zach and his family are elated.
Cary Wilcox, Zachary's Father: "When he's out on the sidewalk and his hand bounces off the controls, we think the dog will be able to help him put it back on. He won't have to have brothers around all the time, and he can do things on his own."
In the coming weeks Zach will travel to Atlanta where he'll spend two weeks in an intensive and expensive training camp with his new canine companion.
Judy Moore-Padgett: "By the second day, we're going to know which dog picks him. It's kind of what we're looking for is the dog who responds. Then the second week they'll be attached at the hip. If he has to go into the bathroom the dog is going with him.”
And as part of their training, Zach and his dog will go to restaurants, movie theaters, and malls together, before they return to Utah for a life together.
Canine Assistance says each dog costs about $10,000. 500 people nationwide are on a waiting list for a special dog of their own.