Non-profit donates service dog to disabled man - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Non-profit donates service dog to disabled man

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- Man's best friend can be a life saver in many ways, especially for someone with physical disabilities.

Chattanooga native Will McMarthy has difficulty with speech and motor functions. He's lived nearly all 28 years of his life in a wheelchair using a computerized speech device. His family is there to help, but McCarthy knows a service dog comes in handy if he's alone for a while.

"They can do all sorts of things like turn off lights. They can pull wheelchairs. They can open door knobs," says Myria McCarthy, Will's mom. Those are just a few of the several dozen chores and commands these dogs know.

She got Will his first canine companion, Cassie, in 2000 but she died in 2001. He recently learned he would receive a new dog for free courtesy of a partnership between Sam's Club, Milk Bone brand, and the Atlanta-based non-profit group Canine Assistants.

An official ceremony was held at Sam's on Lee Highway in Chattanooga Thursday to mark the announcement.

"It's amazing," exclaims Myria.

This will be the second service dog the McCarthy family has received from Canine Assistants. Company spokesperson Dudley Arnold says rising veterinary costs have increased the need for the organization to raise more money to provide the animals at no charge.

"The cost right now is about $20,500 [per dog]. That includes the training, the food," says Arnold.

Myria is thankful for the community and corporate involvement. A new dog will help her son continue to feel more confident about feeling comfortable in the real world.

"I think it's a safer feeling because it's a scary world," says Myria.

She says it even helps Will socially. "Girls like dogs. So the girls come up to you a little more when you've got a dog," Myria adds.

A canine companion may even save literally his life one day as Cassie did a few years ago while Myria was in another room of the house. "She came and got me when he had a seizure," recalls Myria.

It may take several months before Will gets his new pooch, but since he's had one in the past his "second-timer training camp" will only take about a week to complete.

"It'll mainly be about finding the right new dog for him and getting him off on the right foot with that new dog," explains Arnold.

Canine Assistants pairs 75-80 dogs per year across the country with those in need and even a few internationally.

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