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Service Dog Helping Westchester Purple Heart Recipient Regain His Independence

WESTCHESTER, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- It's Graduation Day for a service dog changing the life of a Purple Heart recipient.

The veteran says he's ready to finally regain his independence after being critically injured in combat just a few years ago.

Army Captain Victor Prato says it took a near-death experience to finally accomplish a lifelong dream -- owning a dog.

"When I was in Afghanistan and I got wounded, I was kind of laying in the hospital thinking, like, you know, I almost died without having a dog," he said.

Though he never planned his first pet would be a service dog, Prato says Barbossa is now his rock.

Friday, his new four-legged friend graduated from the nonprofit organization Canine Companions For Independence's service dog training program.

Barbossa trained for weeks to help Prato accomplish day-to-day tasks.

"I knew that that would be a perfect fit, would be to get a dog that could be my companion and be with me as I navigate the world now," Prato said.

Prato says his life turned upside down in 2017 when a suicide bomber with homemade explosives drove right into the truck he was sitting in. The blast critically injured both his legs, landing him in a wheelchair.

"I was seriously injured, my driver was seriously injured," Prato said.

For years, Prato says he had to navigate a once-familiar world with a new set of legs, alone.

But now with Barbossa by his side, he says he's not so afraid anymore.

Prato is regaining his independence while his family gains a peace of mind.

"For him to have a buddy as much as a helper is going to be just really wonderful," Prato's mother said.

"Hopefully I'll be able to have a complete, fulfilling life, and that's what I'm striving towards," Prato said.

Barbossa will join Prato at his family's home in Westchester. Now that Prato is on the mend, he'll begin his search for a job.


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