This ‘good dog’ goes from stray to service dog


A service dog gives assistance to a person with disability through counterbalance, mobility support, bracing, and grounding, as is the case of Murron McInnes and Henry. Photo: 123rf

A local stray will soon be celebrating his graduation as a service dog.

Vicky Green, code enforcement officer with the city of Tahlequah Animal Control department, in Oklahoma, the United States, said that in August 2023, Henry’s journey started with Facebook posts indicating the canine was in Peggs, but he eventually made his way to Tahlequah.

After the Too Fond of Books staff found Henry, he was taken to the Associated Veterinary Clinic for boarding and medical exams. In September, Henry was impounded and set to appear at Fido Fest.

Mason Lane, a trainer with Stray to Service, said he noticed Henry at Fido Fest, where Henry was pulling a person across the street.

“I can tell from body language and things like that, I can just tell he’s probably a good dog. So I asked if I could work him real quick and he just shined,” Lane said.

Lane adopted Henry that day and began his six-month training to become a service dog. After teaching Henry some general service dog tasks, Lane started the hunt for a match, which turned out to be Murron McInnes.

McInnes said six months earlier, she had seen a Facebook post about Henry and Lane, and she eventually reached out. Since being matched, McInnes has been undergoing handler training.

“I wanted a service dog for a long time,” McInnes said. “Thankfully I got Henry, but I wanted a service dog to help me with balance because I... love going to the Red Fern and the Strawberry [Festival]. I’m also a college student and although NSU is not as big, it’s big for me, especially when you have to walk. Henry has helped me with that.”

McInnes was born two months’ premature with spastic monoplegia cerebral palsy. McInnes said Henry helps her through counterbalance, mobility support, bracing, and grounding.

“I was not good at [handling] at first, but as it progressed, Henry and I started to read each other and he really began helping me,” McInnes said. “I was like, ‘Wow!’ I really didn’t know I needed him until we started doing public outings and I was able to start [going] to class. It is such a blessing.”

Henry is set to graduate from the programme May 13, and will be the third dog to complete the Stray to Service Oklahoma chapter.

Green said seeing Henry’s progression as a service to a citizen is a story of hope and community cooperation.

“We hope pet owners make a commitment to their pet(s),” Green said. “Many abandon their pet(s), thinking its best for them or the animal. But in reality, someone else is adopting or euthanising your burden. Instead of abandoning or ‘dumping’ your pet, reach out for help and educate yourself. If your pet needs training, watch videos or read articles, learn about your pet.”

Shortly after starting Henry’s training, McInnes said she found scars around his neck from being tied up for a long period. McInnes said she remembered thinking God put them in each other’s lives for a reason.

“He’s a big relief to me. I feel like I can breathe,” McInnes said. “I feel like part of the weight is lifted off my shoulders. I know it’s going to be OK because I have Henry’s help. I have him here to help me walk and balance.” – Tribune News Service/Tahlequah Daily Press (Okla.)/Skyler Hammons

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