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Xander, the Blind Therapy Pug, Helps Humans Big and Small

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A disabled dog is finding ways to lift peoples' spirit thanks to the companionship he offers.

Xander lost both of his eyes and developed breathing issues early in life following an accident. Soon after, the pug was given up for adoption at the Klamath Animal Shelter in Klamath Falls, Oregon. There, volunteers cared for Xander until Marcie and Rodney Beedy took him into their home.

The Beedys saw potential for Xander to improve the lives of others around him. They enrolled the 1-year-old dog in the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen program. Rodney is a member of the Double C team.

On Xander's official website, his owners explain part of the process.

"Xander's first accomplishment was to pass Beginning obedience class with about 20 sighted dogs," the Beedys wrote. "Momma wore a bell attached to her pant leg to keep him by her side. It wasn't long after that he could just listen to her footsteps and heel beside her."

Three weeks later, the blind pug earned his degree and became a certified Pet Partners Therapy Dog. In the role, he greets and visits with the young and old at hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and animal shelters.

What Rodney saw in the pug that made him fit to be a therapy dog: "It mainly was his gentleness and his ability to adjust to the circumstances. If he was with one person, he would play. If it were another person, he would calm down nicely. He's very gentle with what he does."

The Air Force veteran trains dogs for a living. Despite owning seven pugs and one Labrador, Rodney says, Xander is his first therapy dog.

"I think he was born for this type of work," the proud owner continued. "He's pulled me aside when a child was crying over 500 feet away because he wants to go over and comfort the child."

But when asked to recollect the most touching story of Xander bringing joy or ease to someone, Rodney remembers a particular hospital patient.

"We got a call to go up to the hospital for this one lady who was terminally ill," Rodney said. "We didn't know how long she had. My wife agreed to go up there every day after work for an hour, hour and a half. [The patient] went and played with his face. Xander would kiss her whenever she would cough. [Her] last few days, my wife continued to go up there with Xander."

The compassionate pug calmly stood by his newfound friend during her final days. She died a week and a half later.

"He's amazing in that his blindness does not affect his ability to do his work," Rodney remarked, although the work that Xander accomplishes is pretty amazing in itself.

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