If you’ve got quite a few friends and relatives, it can be hard to decide who to include in your wedding party. Deciding who should act as your best man or bridesmaids can be a daunting task, especially when you’re frightened of offending someone.
But for veteran Justin Lansford, the decision of who to choose as his best man was the easiest decision of his life. And his choice made this one unforgettable wedding. This is because Lansford chose not a human best ‘man’, but a four-legged attendant, his faithful service dog, Gabe.
While deployed in Afghanistan in 2012, Lansford sustained serious injuries in an explosion caused by what is known in the field as an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). The explosion caused his vehicle to overturn, and both of his femurs were broken.
Unfortunately, he had to have his left leg amputated as a result of the severity of his injuries. Life proved difficult for the veteran, but he never gave up. He just needed a little help from a friend.
As a result of his experiences in the line of duty, Lansford had developed post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. For this reason, he was assigned a service dog by the name of Gabe. Two-year-old Gabe and the veteran became instant friends, with Lansford realizing how much he needed help from the dog.
The veteran paratrooper says he uses Gabe to help him get up and down from the floor, especially if he has a fall. Gabe does a lot for Lansford, such as fetching the lubricant he uses to slide on his prosthetic leg. In fact, whenever he needs him, Gabe is right there to help however he can.
Gabe, says Lansford, is a source of great comfort to him. People with PTSD often suffer from severe anxiety, and research shows that contact with animals can often alleviate anxiety symptoms very effectively.
After spending so much meaningful time with each other, Lansford and Gabe became best friends, so much so that when deciding on his best man, there was only one possibility: man’s best friend.
After hours of providing solace, assistance, and care to Lansford, Gabe walked him and long-time girlfriend Carol Balmes down the aisle. Acting as both best man and ring-bearer, the loyal pooch accompanied his human “parents” on their way to becoming husband and wife.
After realizing how much Gabe had improved his life, Lansford and his wife decided they needed to pay it forward in some way. Since welcoming Gabe into their lives, the couple had developed a great love for animals, and for service dogs in particular.
They decided to start fostering puppies for Warrior Canine Connections, an organization that matches service dogs with veterans living with PTSD. Just as Lansford had been matched with Gabe, so other veterans are now being matched with service dogs that have grown up with the couple. What they say is true: dogs really are man’s best friend.