Eight years ago, Yuriy Zmysly, a young Marine who had bravely served in Iraq and Afghanistan and returned home unscathed, went in for surgery at a North Carolina military hospital to remove an inflamed appendix. Mistakes were made, he suffered a brain injury, and he went into a coma from which his loved ones feared he might never wake up. But awake he did, and since then he’s been wrapped in the love of his fiancee (soon wife) Aimee and other devoted family members.

Steve and I met Yuriy and Aimee two and a half years ago, when our puppy Brando (whose baby face graces the top of this blog) was awarded to them to serve as their skilled companion. (So far, he’s our only Graduate.)

Brando with Aimee and Yuriy in the home last September (photo by Bob Schneider)

As a puppy-raiser, there’s no question I hear more often than, “How can you stand to give them up?” I have various answers. One that I don’t often express but could (and maybe should) is: I’ve seen what a wonderful life they can have in service. To our extreme good fortune, Aimee is a gifted writer, photographer, and videographer who amply chronicles the life of her family (principally on Facebook). I often glimpse Brando in her posts, and every time I do it makes me happy.

This year, as she’s done in the past, Aimee has created a video celebrating the fact that Yuriy is alive.  Not just alive, but thriving — working hard to gain strength and abilities.

To me, the greatest thing about CCI and the work of its dogs is the way it creates bridges between people: the folks raising the puppies, the folks awarded the graduate dogs, the people who meet them on their daily journeys through life. Raising Brando made it possible for us to get to know Aimee and Yuriy — and Adelina. What a gift.

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