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Man's best friend--but more 'like a marriage'

By Janet Shamlian, NBC News correspondent

Janet Shamlian, Correspondent

"Like a marriage"--Stephanie Rankin doesn't mind that her husband uses that phrase to describe another relationship. And she admits her spouse of 25 years spends far less time with her than he does with a different companion.

Sergeant Clay Rankin was severely wounded during combat operations in Baghdad.  He has a brain injury you'd be hard pressed to detect and physical wounds evident with his every move. Doctors told 

him he'd have to live out his days in a wheelchair, a decision he was unwilling to accept.  

 

A service dog might keep him on his feet, he was told, but they were hard to come by. Some groups charge tens of thousands of dollars, others ask veterans to solicit friends and family for donations.  A Texas woman does neither. 

 

Working on a shoestring budget and sometimes using abandoned pets, Lori Stevens loves and trains them --  before giving to disabled veterans who will love them even more.

 

That's how an 8-year-old black lab named Archie came to move from the plains of Texas to the mountains of West Virginia and, in the process, changed the life of an American soldier.  Clay says there are no words to express his gratitude to Lori.  There are, however, pictures.  Tonight, in our Making A Difference report, you'll meet the woman who helps man's best friend live up to that billing. 

 

           

                 Sgt Clay Rankin, Archie and NBC's Janet Shamlian

                 at Rankin's home in West Virginia (photo courtesy

                 of Stephanie Rankin)

 

For more information about the group profiled in Janet's report you can go to their website:  www.patriotpaws.org