One year ago, while Chris Simpson was undergoing heart surgery at a Seattle hospital, Zoe, a service dog, helped the teen through his recovery as part of a dog therapy program there.
Wednesday Camp Pendleton hosted a ceremony to donate Zoe’s puppy, Potato, to Chris.
"Zoe helped Chris get through a difficult part of his life," said Shannon Simpson, Chris's Mother. "He would see Zoe on a weekly basis and Zoe was his incentive to make it to the next week each time."
Chris, 16, is the son of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Bryan Simpson, the 62-area Officer in Charge at Camp Pendleton.
"It was an instant connection when Zoe met Chris," said James Skoor, a volunteer at the Seattle Children's Medical and one of Zoe's handlers. "He was an incredible sick little boy, and enduring three heart transplants over 16 years takes a tremendous toll on him. Chris fell in love with our dog Zoe, and it didn't matter how sick Chris was at the time, he would find the strength to come down and spend time with Zoe."
According to Skoor, as soon as he found out they could donate a service dog, they knew he had to have one. That is when they had the idea for Zoe to give birth to a litter of puppies with the intention of giving one to Chris.
Potato, a Shiloh Shepard puppy, will receive service dog training at Wounded Warrior Battalion-West to assist Chris in the future.
"Part of Chris's condition is that he usually wears a mask to prevent him from getting sick," said Simpson. "Potato will be able to help break that barrier and provide a way for people to initiate conversation with him."
Chris added that he really appreciated his time with Zoe and is thrilled to move forward and raise Potato.