Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes were newlyweds when they were victims of the Boston Marathon bombing last year. Both lost their left leg with Jessica nearly losing her right leg as well. Since the bombing, they’ve had nearly 30 surgeries between them so far and have been forced to abandon their jobs and future plans. Needless to say, they had trouble smiling over the past year — until they met Rescue.
Rescue came into Kensky and Downes’ lives through the Massachusetts nonprofit NEADS, which offers a free service dog to any marathon bombing victim who has a permanent physical disability. The 80-pound black Labrador Retriever is trained to help steady Kensky when she walks on crutches or with her prosthetic, to fetch keys, to push buttons, and to answer phones, among many other skills. But his most important job so far has been to bring motivation, joy and laughter to her and her husband.
Kensky describes the first week with Rescue as being a major change and the first time she was able to sleep through the night without waking up sad or anxious. He has also encouraged her to get up and stay active.
“Here’s this big animal who needs to be taken out, he needs exercise, he needs to go to the bathroom, he needs to be fed,” Kensky says in the interview with National Public Radio. “On the day you just don’t want to get off the couch, you don’t want to get in your wheelchair, you don’t want to put your prosthetic on, he looks at you with those eyes and you’ve got to take him out.”
Continuing down the long and often dark road to recovery, the couple has held onto each other for emotional support, but now they have four more legs and one big heart to help them take their next steps.
“To have a dog like him around, you laugh 10, 20, 50 times more a day, and you can’t help but have that lift the mood,” Downes says in an interview with NPR. “And he’s a huge cuddler. … He’s just constantly giving us hugs and kisses and entertaining us, and he’s a wonderful gift in that way.”