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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.
PHOTOS BY PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Britney liked Pepper's calmness more than anything. Her family had tried other dogs as pets, and Britney couldn't tolerate a hyper animal in her face.
Pepper quickly bonded with Britney's mother, too, because she's the one who cared for her.
When the Beaches went out in public--because Britney loves to be on the go--Pepper performed another vital service, beyond the regular retrieval of pens or pencils Britney might drop.
Pepper made it easier for people to approach Britney and her chair. They'd ask if they could pet the dog, and in no time at all, they were talking with Britney, who enjoyed talking with them.
Pepper also would hand money to people behind the cash register, helping Britney achieve a sense of independence when she went shopping.
As the years went by, the Beaches saw changes in Pepper, who turned 12 in August. She slept more. She roamed the house instead of sticking by Britney's side. And she didn't--or couldn't--climb into Britney's hospital bed at night and sleep beside her.
The Beaches made inquiries about getting another service dog.
There was no doubt they'd stick with Canine Assistants, a nonprofit formed in 1991 to help children and adults with physical disabilities, seizures and other special needs.
The program places 75 to 100 dogs annually, and as it did with Pepper, covers the cost of the dogs as well as their medical care and food.
The Beaches lived up to their end of the bargain, taking Pepper regularly to the vet, who communicated the dog's condition to the Canine Assistants people.
When the Beaches went back to Georgia on Sept. 30, they were in a group of seven people there for the second time.
Two still had their first service dogs, but the animals were in bad shape, Angie said. The other service dogs had died.
Britney didn't pick Halley. The people in the program did, and the two worked together for a week.
Like Pepper, Halley was matched with a person when she was about 18 months old and had been trained to perform about 90 commands.
Since they've been home, the Beaches have focused on giving Britney and Halley time to bond. Britney's mother has resisted the urge to pet her and asks visitors to do the same.
When Britney wants Halley to do something, Angie tries to stand back and not get involved.