This Service Dog Transformed 2 Boston Marathon Survivors' Lives

Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes had only been married seven months when they both had their left legs blown off during last year's Boston Marathon bombing. Their lives changed instantly, and the couple spent months learning to adjust to their new lives as amputees. But, after months of adjusting, Kensky and Downes got a dog.

Rescue, the couple's black Labrador retriever, isn't just a dog. He's Kensky's service dog, and also one of the first service dogs to be offered to survivors of last year's bombing who suffered permanent physical injuries. Kensky, whose remaining leg was also devastatingly mutilated (and nearly amputated as well), applied to adopt Rescue from NEADS, an organization that trains assistance dogs for the disabled, as soon as she was discharged from the hospital.

"For us to be in that incredibly dark, despairing place and to see the brightness in her face when the dog was there," Downes told the Boston Globe. "If something was going to bring her that joy we needed to have that."

The majority of NEADS assistance dogs are trained for service by prison inmates and are usually placed with military veterans who sustain combat injuries. Since many bombing victims sustained similar injuries, NEADS dogs like Rescue already experience appropriately helpful training. Rescue helps Kensky with her mobility, steadying her as she walks; he knows to pick up her keys if she drops them and brings her a blanket when she says she's cold; and he keeps both Kensky and Downes physically active.

"Here's this big animal who needs to be taken out, he needs exercise, he needs to go to the bathroom, he needs to be fed," Kensky told NPR. "On the day you just don't want to get off the couch, you don't want to get in your wheelchair, you don't want to put your prosthetic on, he looks at you with those eyes and you've got to take him out."

And according to Kensky and Downes, the list of Rescue's unintended benefits goes on. "To have a dog like him around, you laugh 10, 20, 50 times more a day, and you can't help but have that lift the mood," Downes said. "And he's a huge cuddler... He's just constantly giving us hugs and kisses and entertaining us, and he's a wonderful gift in that way."