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Dallas Rehab Dogs Are 'Inspiration On Wheels'

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - They are inspiration on wheels. Two handicapped recruits to a Dallas rehabilitation program are providing the kind of hope and encouragement nobody else can. They do that without saying a single word.

They're four-legged therapists on two wheels.  Arlo is an extroverted, male dachshund. Chili is a female, pit bull with a constant grin.

"They light up the room. They make everyone happy when they get here," said Austin Woolsey.

Both dogs, permanently disabled, provide the kind of therapy at the Baylor Institute of Rehabilitation no human can.

"It just reaches an inner part of us that's hard to reach," said Debra Stegman.

Stegman, from Weatherford, just had scoliosis surgery.

"And, we can relate. That little Arlo and I have the same problem. So, we became fast friends at one point,"
said Deborah Harrison.

Harrison is another rehab patient, trying to regain the use of her leg.

Chili is an abused dog. When she was 8 weeks old someone threw her onto the concrete, breaking her back. Arlo has a degenerative disc disease. Both would've been euthanized.

"Arlo was found just dragging himself on the side of the road," said Bettye Baker.

Bettye and Jim Baker, who own the Oak Hill Animal Rescue shelter, adopted Chili and Arlo four years ago.

They only joined the Baylor Therapy Dog program, a year ago, when a nurse told them something they'd never even thought of before.

"These dogs have to be therapy dogs because people have to see that if a dog's in a wheelchair, and they're in a wheelchair, they can do okay," remembers Baker.

That's something Austin Woolsey, from Keller, has already noticed. He's been confined to a wheelchair because of a diving accident two months ago.

"Yeah, they don't have a problem with it at all," said Woolsey.

"A gift from God. Truly it is. We rescued these guys from being euthanized and what they've brought to so many people!" said Jim Baker.

People like the Reverend Billy Clifton Freeman. "I had a stroke on the right side," Freeman said.

Freeman had surgery five days ago and had not been able to use his right hand until Chili waddled over for visit a few moments ago.

"Without thinking, I reached out with the right hand and this is the bad hand which is going to be the good hand now!" Freeman said.

Jim Baker was visibly moved by what had just happened.

"Aside from crying or wanting to cry, doesn't that make you want just has that tremendous emotional feel," Baker said.

Helping patients feel better is what the dog therapy program is all about. Linda Marler is the program director.

"It helps to decrease their need for pain medication, lowers their heart rate, lowers their blood pressure.
So, it does a lot," Marler said.

For some of these rehab patients, Chili and Arlo are the best medicine they've ever had. At least, that's how the Reverend Freeman sees it.  "It was good for me and the dog!" he said.

Jim and Bettye Baker have been rescuing dogs and cats for years. They have more than 60 animals currently in their shelter who are looking to be adopted.


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