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Assistance Dogs Help Couple Cope With Loss

Sue and Byron Harvey with their service dogs Max (r) and Ziggy.

When Byron Harvey of Thame, Oxfordshire in England, lost his wife Jill, the wheelchair –bound man found himself feeling isolated. Devastated by his loss, his assistance dog Isis was the only reason he kept going. Isis was devoted to both Byron and Jill and also grieving very severely. That's when Byron knew he had to help his faithful companion.

Sue Harvey had decided to give up on life before she received her first assistance dog, Inka (sister to Isis). Having an assistance dog meant the world to Sue, but when she discovered how hard Isis was taking the death of her owner, she knew she wanted to help. It was now Inka's turn to help her canine sister.

Sue and Byron were brought together because of their assistance dogs. Their friendship turned into love and the two married in 2008. Sadly, Inka passed away and the loss was difficult for Sue. Isis is now nearly 13 and is a retired working dog. The couple now has their current assistance dogs, Max and Ziggy.

When asked what it's like to have three dogs in the house, Byron respond, "It's wonderful because when they all start to play it's not a problem, it's great for them."

Sue feels so blessed to have Max and Ziggy's help. Max fetches her shoes, her neck collar, and helps her get into bed at night. Byron also explains how Ziggy fetches the remote control, open and close doors, and assists him in the courtroom while he is working.

"Both Sue and I had been through a lot of heartache due to our disabilities and the loss of one's closest to us. It was our original assistance dogs that brought us together and the journey to get our new assistance dogs helped cement that growing love. We share the knowledge of how life-changing these dogs are, giving us independence and a second chance at life. We are now such a close knit family."

Sue marvels at how much the dogs help them with their day-to-day activities. She says that they are not pets, but are truly working dogs. "As much as I adore my husband, my Max is my bestest bestest friend."

Because of their hard work and devotion, Max and Ziggy were finalist for the Crufts Friends for Life 2013. The Kennel Club's Friends for Life competition, which has been running since 2006, celebrates heart-warming stories of friendship in adversity, where dogs have truly earned the title of man's best friend, through bravery, support, or companionship.