Four-Legged Hero: Local Service Dog Wins National Award

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

CARROLLTON - Dogs are a man’s best friend. But one dog has given his owner a new lease on life.

“He can open the doors. He can get his leash. He puts the leash back where it belongs,” said Rick Kleifgen. “When we're out in public, I have him in the harness and then he is my balance. I don't use a crutch.”

At the age of 17, Kleifgen was injured in a gymnastics accident causing his balance and coordination to slowly deteriorate.

“I’m a high functioning quadriplegic. My spinal cord, when you look at it, is supposed to be straight up and down, mine basically looked like a figure eight."

Eight years ago, Kleifgen got Jabiru through the Canine Assistants Program to help him with daily tasks.  Now Jabiru is his number one wingman.

“The general public is taught to try not to look at people who are hurt or injured,” Kleifgen said. “In this case, they can come up and say what kind of dog is it? What's his name? And it builds a bridge and I get to meet the people.”

For his many talents, Jabiru has been named a "Dog Who Changed the World" by Milk Bone.

“He can do a lot of things physically, but even if he couldn’t do that kind of thing, Jabiru is emotionally my support,” Kleifgen said. “You can get depressed with your situation. Jabiru snaps me out of that."