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Canines can retire, too
Stafford County woman with cerebral palsy gets her second service dog-and her first seems to understand the new relationship

 Britney Beach, 19, bonds with her new service dog, Halley, while her retired service dog, a yellow Lab named Pepper (background), rests at the family's Stafford home.
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Date published: 10/27/2012

By CATHY DYSON

One dog stands by Britney Beach's wheelchair, wagging her black tail and looking a little confused.

Another dog is a few feet away. This one's wagging her tail, too, but for seemingly different reasons.

Pepper, a yellow Labrador, is Britney's first service dog and recently was retired after more than eight years of duty.

Even though she spends more time sleeping as she's getting older, she's on her feet at the sound of Britney's voice. She stands nearby, ready to help.

After Britney and her family repeat the commands to the other dog, Pepper seems to sense that everything is OK.

She goes back to her spot, at the end of the full-sized beanbag where Britney often reclines, and dozes again.

There's a new service dog in the Stafford County household--and Pepper seems to understand the arrangement.

"She's so smart, she's probably figured it all out," said Britney's mother, Angie.

In early October, the Beaches came home from Canine Assistants in Georgia with their second service dog. Halley is a black golden retriever, a mixture of golden retriever and black Lab.

The Lab genes clearly dominated because Halley is as dark as midnight. Her white teeth, in contrast, are as bright as the comet she's named after.

When the Beaches decided to become "second-timers," they knew exactly what they'd do with their first service dog.

They'd retire her official vest, which declared she was a working dog, and keep her comfortable in her old age.

"Most places make you give them up because they don't want two service dogs in the home, but no way," Angie said. "She's part of the family. I couldn't imagine life without Pepper."

AN IMMEDIATE BOND

Britney, 19, who was born with cerebral palsy, isn't able to walk and has limited use of her hands. She has attendants who help at home and at North Stafford High School, which she'll attend until she's 21.

When she mentioned years ago that she'd like a service dog, her parents thought, "Why not?"

Britney was 11 when she and her parents, Sidney and Angie, made the first trek to Georgia. Britney tried out 13 dogs before she saw Pepper, and the two immediately bonded.


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