Disabled vet leaned on pet dog, Tobin

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

For many people, a best friend will listen to you when you’re down, give you a shoulder to cry on, or celebrate with you when you succeed. For Thurston Mosley, all of these things were accomplished in the shape of a beautiful Labrador retriever named Tobin.

&uot;Tobin was a real good companion,&uot; Mosley told the Lions Club at their weekly meeting this past Monday. &uot;They don’t come any better.&uot;

Tobin was part of the Canine Companions for Independence program, which is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs.

Canine Companion recipients pay only a $100 team training registration fee that is reimbursed in supplies. There is no charge for the dog. Individual participants in the program are not responsible for any of the costs involved in the breeding, raising or training of each Canine Companion.

Canine Companions for Independence is funded by private contributions. These include gifts from businesses, civic groups such as the Lions Club, and service clubs, as well as some grants. CCI receives no government funding.

CCI trains four different types of Canine Companion Teams.

First, service teams are for people with physical and/or developmental disabilities who work with a Canine Companion to enhance their ability to perform practical, everyday tasks such as retrieving dropped items, opening doors and turning on and off light switches.

Next, adults who are hard of hearing or are deaf may use a Canine Companion to alert them to sounds such as telephones, alarm clocks and smoke alarms.

This makes a Hearing Team.

A Skilled Companion Team is designed for adults and children with disabilities who benefit from the social and functional commands of a Canine Companion. This type of placement increases the communication, range of motion and interactive skills of some of the recipients.

Finally, a Facility Team is designed to aid adults who work as professional caregivers, educators, or in other settings where a Canine Companion can improve the mental, physical or emotional health of individuals.

Mosley is a Viet Nam veteran who served 44 months in a war zone with the Special Forces.

&uot;On March 31, 1971, my group ran into an ambush,&uot; Mosley said. &uot;As a result, I lost my knee, but, more importantly, I lost much of my independence. After that, I was medically retired from the Army life I knew and loved.&uot;

Tobin was presented to Mosley on March 15, 1997, by Canine Companions for Independence. For eight years, Tobin was not only his best friend but also his helper in so many ways.

Mosley said that before Tobin came into his life, he would become very frustrated whenever he dropped something because he would have to struggle to get it or wait for his wife, Rochelle, to get it for him.

Mosley could tell Tobin, &uot;Switch,&uot; and the lab, who knew 52 different commands, would turn the lights either on or off. He could open the refrigerator door, then take his paws and push it to. Mosley said that Tobin would not even use the restroom until he was told to.

&uot;But, he never had an accident,&uot; Mosley said.

According to Mosley, bank tellers would fuss over who got to wait on him because Tobin would bring them the money in his mouth.

&uot;One time at a convention in Las Vegas, people began to crowd around us because I told him, ‘Switch,’ and Tobin sat there and played the slot machines,&uot; he said.

Mosley said that the average service life of a Canine Companion is eight years. After that time, the dog is retired and will live out its remaining years as a pet.

On Feb. 1 of this year, after eight faithful years of service, Tobin had to be put to sleep because he had cancer.

&uot;Tobin was a friend like no other friend,&uot; Mosley said.

For more information on Canine Companions for Independence or for how you can donate funds, please visit www.caninecompanions.org.