In 2013, Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes were newlyweds residing in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
They were both pursuing careers in the medical field, and they soon planned to relocate to San Francisco.
But life would change dramatically for the couple on April 15, 2013.
Kensky and Downes, enjoying a rare day off together — decided to stop and watch the Boston Marathon. They took a spot near the finish line to cheer on the runners.
“None of our family knew we were there,” Kensky told NBC’s “Today” in October 2017.
“We had only been there a couple of minutes when the first bomb went off. Patrick lost consciousness. My memories are of very graphic things — like his foot was laying next to me.”
Kensky and Downes had both become victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, where two explosives detonated near the finish line of the race, killing three people and wounding more than 250 others.
The terror attack robbed both newlyweds of their left legs, with Kensky having to endure her right leg being amputated as well.
Their severe injuries meant that they essentially lived at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for about 3 years.
Almost 4 and a half years following the attack, Kensky was finally able to return to her job on the oncology floor of Massachusetts General Hospital.
Kensky’s recovery was a long, arduous process that required many helping hands.
But what Kensky and Downes didn’t expect to come out of such a tragedy was the joy they both found in the form of a black Labrador retriever appropriately named Rescue.
This couple had just gotten married when they both lost a leg in the Boston Marathon bombing. They thought they’d never be OK again — then a dog named Rescue stepped in and gave them their lives back ?❤️️
Posted by The Dodo on Tuesday, January 30, 2018
“They told me, he has a slight medical condition — it was from flopping down on the floor too hard. ‘I’m like, Oh my God, this is my dog,'” Kensky told The Dodo.
“They had to put elbow pads on him. And it was just the most hysterical thing,” her husband added. “It was a clear indication that he was going to bring this levity to our lives when we needed it most.”
Kensky emphasized to “Today” how important Rescue has been to their recovery.
“We are just starting to piece some of our life back together,” she said. “This first stage of recovery was quite long, and Rescue has been with us for most of it. I honestly don’t know where we’d be without him.”
Rescue — a service dog — was trained by a nonprofit organization called National Education for Assistance Dog Services, or NEADS.
The dog is able to assist Kensky with a plethora of everyday tasks, like opening doors and retrieving objects from around the house.
But perhaps Rescue’s biggest role is the healing and emotional support he has provided for the couple.
“When he came bounding into the room, we all laughed in a way that we just had not laughed in months,” Downes told The Dodo, recalling the first time he and his wife met Rescue.
Kensky was in and out of surgery for months at a time, and as soon as she would wake up, she would have the nurses bring Rescue in so he could cuddle with her in the hospital bed.
“He was the best medicine that anyone could provide her,” Downes said.
“He just gives me the confidence to try things,” Kensky added.
Although Rescue’s special abilities are a tremendous help to Kensky, it’s his personality, affection and playfulness that have provided the most relief for the couple.
“And like just watching your dog run and play … it just lifts your spirits!” Kensky said.
Rescue’s profound impact led to him being named Dog of the Year for 2017 by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
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