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Boston Marathon Victims Suffer Severe Loss. After Losing Limbs And Hope, They Find Purpose And Optimism In An Unlikely Companion

October 23, 2017

For the last 120 years, Boston, Massachusetts has been home to the world-renowned Boston Marathon. Every year since 1897, on Patriot’s Day, hundreds of professional and amateur runners travel to the beautiful city for a 26.2 mile run through the beautiful and hilly Massachusetts terrain. For decades, the marathon was a family-friendly event that inspired everyone to be active and a part of the community. The Boston Marathon was a truly prestigious and exciting event for the city.

On August 15, 2013, the iconic Boston Marathon was forever changed. Two bombs exploded only hours after the first runners crossed the finish line. Three innocent people were killed, hundreds were injured, and 17 others lost limbs. Among the 17 who lost limbs were newlyweds, Jessica and Patrick Downes.

Jessica and Patrick were at the finish line, watching the later runners when the bomb exploded. Amid the utter chaos, Jess was able to find her new husband and saw that he was missing part of his leg. She immediately began making a tourniquet out of her purse. That’s when two strangers rushed over to Jess and yelled, “Ma’am, you’re on fire!” She looked down to see both her legs in flames. The two strangers tried to smother the fire to try to save her limbs.

In the following days, Jess lost both of her legs and Patrick lost one. For the first 15 days following the explosion, the couple were kept in separate hospitals but were able to connect by phone. After 15 long days, the two were finally placed in the same hospital.

Even though they were together, they were still suffering through tremendous loss - not just of their limbs - Jess had lost her job as a nurse, Patrick had lost his fellowship in graduate school, and both were unable to do even the simplest of tasks; they were quickly losing hope. After struggling to find the will to live and a glimmer of hope in their circumstances, they were introduced to what quickly become their newest and greatest motivation.

That’s when a service dog fittingly named “Rescue” joined the Downes Family. Rescue is a highly trained Black Lab Service Dog. His efforts were simple: help his new family with their day-to-day living. Immediately, Jess’ and Patrick’s spirits rose; they felt lighter; they felt love; and most importantly, they felt hope.

The companionship that they found in Rescue was far greater than they had ever anticipated. Jess says that one of the reasons Rescue has been so wonderful for her is because the attention is no longer on just their losses, but now on their gains. They gained a friendship, a deeper appreciation and love for each other, and a hope that is found in the form of a sweet and silly Black Lab.

The three members of the Downes Family still reside in Boston. Every day, they are learning to love their new life. Thanks to their devotion to each other and the support of their service dog, Rescue, they are on the road to their new normal with a renewed optimism. Through this journey, many have seen triumph rise from terror, and Rescue is a large part of that, so much so that he is being honored as 2017’s ASPCA Dog of the Year!

For this reason, we are so grateful for the Service Dog community! For Jess and Patrick, this is only the beginning of life with a Service Dog and it has surely had a significant impact on their lives. In the midst of great loss, this Service Dog is reminding people of hope.

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