Injured by Blast, Handler and Bomb-Sniffing Canine Separated to Recover

U.S. Army Later Reunites Dog With Handler


WINCHESTER, Calif., Sept. 13, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- When people hear there might be a bomb nearby, most try to get as far away as quickly as possible. But for U.S. Army specialist Brandon Sanford and his bomb-sniffer dog Rexo, it was business as usual.

"My dog Rexo and I deployed to Iraq in 2008 and together began our first patrol missions intended to locate explosives designed to kill American soldiers," said Sanford.  In April of that same year, a roadside bomb blasted the vehicle in which Sanford and Rexo were traveling.

"I suffered traumatic brain injury, hip and other wounds.  Rexo was also injured, but after recovering he was scheduled for redeployment with another handler," Sanford said.  "I never thought I'd see him again," he added quietly.

Following Sanford's own hospitalization and return home, his quality of life slowly began to improve.  His wife, knowing he was deeply worried about Rexo, discretely inquired about the dog and discovered that the Army was considering Rexo for discharge.  So she applied for and was granted his release to their family.

"I was surprised and excited to find out that Rexo would be living the rest of his days in comfort and safety with our family," Sanford said.  "My wife and son even hide treats throughout the house for him to detect, which helps him to once again feel rewarded for his work."

Due to his own injuries, however, Sanford has endured seizures, problems with balance, fine motor skills and more.  Simple daily tasks had become daunting.  It was while receiving hospital care for his brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress that Sanford was introduced to the healing power of Help Hospitalized Veterans' (HHV) free therapeutic arts & crafts kits.

"I like to work on a variety of crafts, but my favorites are the model cars," Sanford said.  "HHV has some awesome muscle cars.  Working with the small pieces has helped my hand coordination.  I have short-term memory problems due to my TBI, so working on the kits helps me focus and retrain my concentration skills.  The arts & crafts have also helped me overcome frustrations and reduce my anxiety," added Sanford.

"The craft kits help me a lot, especially at times when I get discouraged.  But it feels great to finish a kit.  There are a lot of things I can't do right now, but I've been working on a huge Harley Davidson motorcycle model which would have cost me a fortune.  I'm extremely grateful to the HHV donors who make these kits possible.  They're the folks who really make a difference in the lives of us vets."


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