Noble, Milk-Bone's Service-Dog Star, Is Placed with a Quadriplegic Marine
"It's going well," Sam, 23, tells PEOPLEPets.com of life with Noble. "He's always next to me, he's outgoing, playful. He's been great – he's a really good dog."
The 18-month-old Lab mix was an extra-special trainee at Canine Assistants in Milton, Ga. Not only did Noble have his own Facebook page, where fans could watch him grow, but he was also featured in a national ad campaign for Milk-Bone, which helped raise funds for the service dog program.
Sam and his mother Crystal say they had no idea Noble was such a star. But what they did know was that he made a perfect pal for Sam, who was critically injured while on duty in North Carolina in January 2009, when the car he was traveling in careened over an embankment and smashed into a tree. "It took two hours to cut him out of the vehicle," Crystal recalls. "By the time they rescued him, he'd stopped breathing."
After several months in the hospital, Sam was moved to Georgia's Shepherd Center. There, he worked for months to recover from his spine and brain injuries – and learned about Canine Assistants.
With Sam gaining strength, the Farrs traveled to Milton to participate in a two-week "camp" that paired dogs with people. "I knew he was mine immediately," Sam recalls of the moment he met Noble. "He came straight up to me. I didn't have to keep meeting the other dogs – I knew he liked me for me."
"It felt natural," Crystal adds. "After they were matched, they sent Noble to stay the night with us in our hotel. There was never an adjustment period. When it came to Noble, it seemed like he'd been there all along. It felt like he'd been Sam's dog for years."
Now the family has settled comfortably back into their Oceanside, Calif., home, where Noble helps turn lights on and off, opens doors and drawers, picks up dropped objects and alerts Crystal, Sam's primary caregiver, when her son needs her. "I've never in my life seen a dog as amazing as Noble, ever," she says.
Noble, who still plays just like a puppy when he's not working, also joins Sam on visits to local Veterans Affairs hospitals. "Sam goes and shows Noble to soldiers who've come back from Afghanistan and Iraq and lost legs and arms," Crystal explains. "It shows them that there's hope."
And there's hope for Sam, too. Discharged from the military just 10 weeks ago, he's considering attending college – with Noble by his side. "Sam loves him so much, and he loves Sam. I almost think Noble is a human in an animal's body," Crystal says. And despite his big doggie duties, the spunky pup hasn't lost his flair for fame. "He still knows when he's in front of a camera," Crystal says, laughing, "because he smiles."
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