New Service Dogs

The Tower of Hope Announces Funding of Three Service Dog Teams for Wounded Veterans

New York, March 18, 2009—For Immediate Release—The Tower of Hope is pleased to announce that it has recently funded the training of three service dogs that have been teamed with wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Tower of Hope is a non-profit organization that raises money to fund the training of service dogs for individuals that have suffered traumatic injuries or those who have chronic debilitating illnesses. While The Tower of Hope provides service dogs to a variety of injured and disabled people, the need among veterans has vastly increased, and these recent placements were designed to help ease the rapidly growing demand for service dogs to be placed with severely injured veterans.

The recipients of these service dogs are:

  • Lori Meshell, who has been teamed with Star. Army Sgt. Lori Meshell shattered a hip and crushed her back and knees during a mortar attack in Iraq. She has undergone hip replacement and knee reconstruction surgery, and needs at least three more surgeries. Star, a black lab, will help Lori keep her balance when she walks, and provide support if she has severe pain. Star will retrieve and pick up items for her, and give her unqualified affection.
  • Reas Axtell III, who has been teamed with Warren. Donald "Reas" Axtell, III is a 25 year old veteran who was injured in Iraq in 2007. Due to the severity of his injury (his legs and hips were amputated) he uses a wheelchair for mobility. Warren, a yellow lab, is there to help him by picking up anything he drops, retrieving the portable phone should he need help, opening heavy doors and helping Reas get back in his wheelchair. Reas plans to attend culinary arts school where he will study to be a chef and put Warren in charge of clean up.
  • Josh Cooley, who has been teamed with Courage. Josh suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) explosion in Iraq. As the vehicle he was in caught fire, his fellow soldiers rushed to extricate him, but not before Josh experienced severe burns. His left leg and arm are impaired due to decreased strength and coordination, and his head injury makes speech and conversation difficult. Courage is helping Josh in many ways. Josh is communicating again and can walk for brief periods, with Courage at his side.

Star and Warren were trained by NEADS in Massachusetts, and Courage was trained by New Horizons in Florida. Both training facilities are approved by The Tower of Hope, providing the best in training of service dogs in accordance with Assistance Dog International (ADI) rules.

Through these programs, service dogs are trained to serve as walker/balance companions when recipients are ambulatory and walking with their prosthetics. They provide balance while walking, going up and downstairs, and getting up from a sitting or fallen position. When the recipients remove their prosthetics and transfer to a wheelchair, dogs help their owners by assisting in picking up dropped articles, retrieving items from a distance, pulling manual wheelchairs a short distance and turning lights on and off, among other important daily tasks. There are even dogs that are trained to fold clothing, and perform other tasks to make life easier.

"Studies have shown that service dogs can help with everything from self-esteem to independent living. Due to a pervasive lack of funding, there are many people who could benefit by having a service dog, but do not have access to one," says Cathy Carilli, Tower of Hope founder. "Our mission at The Tower of Hope is to popularize this type of aid and ensure that no one has to go through a difficult time alone. We also strive to educate, advocate and promote the benefits of the relationship between humans and service dogs."