Service Dog Helps Pet Mom Gain Confidence and Support

For Kate, Jax became the service dog she did not know she needed—and her best friend.

Kate + Jax

Kate was not looking for a service dog when she fostered a puppy named Jax, but his natural temperament and helpful instincts inspired the pair to train together. Through his love and support, Jax helped open a world of possibilities for Kate, and the two became best friends.

"I had no intention of getting a dog, but we took to each other like a perfect symbiotic duo. Together, we gave each other confidence to go out in the world and feel capable."

Handicapped is the life I know but try to hide. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bring me down. Life is hard, and my physical challenges make it harder. It’s not something I talk much about. There’s nothing I can do to change it, so my mantra has been to accept it and be grateful for what I have.

Over the years, doctors suggested a service dog. I dismissed the idea, feeling I was better off enduring my challenges and getting through daily life on my own. Instead, I fostered kittens and puppies for Homeward Trails. Then I met Jax.

Jax had been a street puppy in Puerto Rico. Found under a bush during a tropical storm with his siblings, emaciated, covered in fleas, he wasn’t likely to live more than 6 months. How didn’t he drown? I know now it’s because we were destined to meet. I fostered Jax, taken in by his sad, malnourished body and soulful eyes. His suffering had been immense and something in his struggle and survival pulled me in.

I had no intention of getting a dog, but we took to each other like a perfect symbiotic duo. Jax wasn’t fazed by my world, didn’t demand long walks, and preferred mental exercise. He wasn’t overly confident. Nor was I. Together, we gave each other confidence to go out in the world and feel capable.

I soon realized that Jax was the service dog I didn’t know I needed. So, the training and learning for both of us began.

“Get meds” was his first task, where he would find my medication and place it in my hand. He now retrieves all kinds of items by name or with “go get” using “yes or no” like a game of hot or cold. Jax opens doors, carries shopping bags, helps me up if I fall, provides momentum on hills, and more. He’s always there when I need him.

When I have procedures, leaving me bed-bound, he’s my nurse. Jax is there, cuddling as I endure the pain, ready to retrieve whatever I need, leaving only to go with a walker and then return to my side.

I’ve never felt so independent since I lost my ability to walk 20 years ago. Jax is my other half, and I am his. He and I read one another’s needs, wants, and emotions, fulfilling something neither of us knew we needed until we had each other. He’s not from a fancy breeder or an elite school. He’s my perfect street service dog. He was born for this.

Life is tough, for people and for dogs. Jax still to this day has a piece of his tongue missing, a reminder of his origin. Confidence takes time to gain and is not a given. My world opened with Jax in a way I never dreamed. He somehow survived the streets of Puerto Rico to give me that gift. And I intend to thank him for the rest of his life in every way I can.

Each year, Petco Love Stories invites adopters to share how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Kate won Homeward Trails Animal Rescue in Arlington, Virginia a 2021 Love Stories award.