July 1, 2013 at 11:40 AM ET
A year after flesh-eating bacteria stole her hands, feet and entire right leg, Aimee Copeland is getting some extra help with her recovery: a service labradoodle named Belle.
The breed is one of the few that Copeland can tolerate with her allergies. Belle is being trained specifically for Copeland, and the dog will eventually be able to help Copeland with tasks like opening doors, fetching food out of the fridge or picking up things from the floor.
"It's just so much more difficult now, dropping things on the ground all the time, needing assistance, and I spend a lot of time here alone, so Belle's going to be a great help to me, and just be a really nice companion," Copeland says.
Copeland, the Georgia graduate student who made national headlines last year when she contracted the bacteria after a zip-lining accident, met the dog for the first time this weekend, at her home in Snelville, Ga. Belle has helped Copeland with a few tasks already, like helping her get out of her wheelchair and onto a workout platform. The dog will be with Copeland permanently in Snelville at the end of July.
For now, the 1-year-old Belle is still in training, with the Psychiatric Service Dog Academy, located in Cocoa, Fla. Crystal Callahan Ayala, the owner and lead trainer for the service dog training group, took Belle to meet Copeland this weekend, and says the dog was donated from a breeder. Ayala says Belle is full of energy, but very sweet.
After meeting Belle, Copeland said, "I was just overwhelmed. She's perfect. She's so sweet, and has a very sweet disposition, very calm, and that was definitely important to me. And I was just amazed at how beautiful she was. So I definitely could not have asked for a better dog."