MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A local Coastal Carolina University student received a skilled companion service dog, changing his life by helping him be independent in his wheelchair.
Cooper Berry has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a muscle genetic disorder that confines him to a wheelchair. He recently received Ross, a Canine Companions for Independence service dog to help him take on responsibilities as a college student and young adult.
“Ross, sit, good boy,” Berry said.
Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them.
“Before Ross, it was all about me taking care of myself,” Berry said. “Now that I have Ross, it’s about taking care of Ross and me.”
Berry takes on life in a wheelchair. Everyday responsibilities can be a challenge. His independence is limited. That was until he met Ross.
Canine Companions for Independence is a nonprofit organization providing highly trained companion dogs to people with disabilities at no charge.
“As far as receiving the animal, paying for the training, there’s no cost to us once so ever,” said Jim Berry, Cooper’s dad.
Cooper’s dad said training a dog like Ross would normally cost about $50,000.
Beyond being a man’s best friend, Ross knows 40 commands. He can turn on lights, pick up dropped items, and open doors.
“The first time I met ross was when we were in Orlando,” Cooper said. “It was like our first day of training, and ever since then we have been a bond.”
The Canine Companions for Independence service dogs increase independence for active adults with disabilities, like Cooper, and help to reduce their reliance on other people.
The furry friends go through nearly a year of intense training at one of the nonprofit organization’s regional training centers.
“He can do so many things, it makes my life so much easier and not having to rely on my parents,” Cooper said.
Like many people, Cooper Berry has a special bond with his dog. More than his companion, Ross gave Cooper a level of independence he never thought he would have.
“He’s a life-changer, he’s just like my best friend now,” Cooper said.
The nonprofit organization has provided over 5,000 assistance dogs to people with disabilities.
The Berry family tells me Ross is the only Canine Companions Service Dog in the Myrtle Beach area.
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