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Friday, April 18, 2014
Dog is W.H. woman’s ‘unbelievable gift’
Howard Schwach
West Hempstead resident Leslie Cohen with her assistance dog, Nardo.

If you have any doubts about a dog’s ability to be a best friend, just ask West Hempstead resident Leslie Cohen about her assistance dog, Nardo.

“I’m always dropping things,” Cohen told the Herald. “Nardo is hardworking and patient. Whether I’m in my scooter or using my walker, he loves to help. He’s always getting me my cell phone, my keys and even my laundry, piece by piece. He’s an unbelievable gift, and I couldn’t be as active without him.

Cohen has had multiple sclerosis for 23 years. She does her daily chores either ensconced in a scooter, which gives her mobility, or by using a walker. Nardo is a 5-year-old Lab-golden retriever mix that was provided to her three years ago by Canine Companions for Independence, a Medford-based nonprofit that has offered a variety of service and assistance dogs for 38 years.

Cohen says he makes a more normal life possible. “Nardo is highly trained and inconspicuous,” she said. “I can take him anywhere, although there are places, such as the hair salon, where I don’t normally take him. We even took him on a flight to California to see my daughter. When the flight was over and we were getting off the plane, other passengers told us they didn’t even know he was there during the flight.”

Assistance dogs typically wear brightly colored vests sporting the organization’s logo. Nardo’s is blue with a yellow logo. When he is wearing it, Cohen said, he is “working.” When he is in uniform, he won’t even easily allow strangers to pet him.

“He just gives them a look that says, ‘Don’t bother me, I’m working,’” she said with a laugh.

When the vest comes off, however, Nardo is just like any dog, and he likes to take long walks and roughhouse with Leslie’s husband, Daniel. “Daniel is the one who has to exercise him when he comes home from work each night,” she said. “He doesn’t get enough exercise walking next to my scooter in the supermarket or when I’m using my walker. He’s become attached to my husband.”

Cohen and Nardo werescheduled to receive an award from Canine Companions on Thursday at a Manhattan dinner celebrating the fifth anniversary of the organization’s Miller Family Campus in Medford, from which some 200 people in need and their assistance dogs have “graduated.”

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