When Justin Lansford and Carol Balmes became engaged, Justin already knew who his best man would be, his faithful service dog, Gabe. Gabe proudly walked them down the aisle during their beautiful wedding ceremony in Largo, Florida about a year later.Justin met Gabe in 2012 after he lost a leg to an IUD while serving his country in Afghanistan.
Justin told ABC News, “I was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division and we were in eastern Afghanistan in early 2012. We struck an IED and it flipped my truck completely. I had bilaterally severed femurs which resulted in the amputation of my left leg.”When Justin returned to the United States he suffered from physical injuries, emotional scars, and PTSD, so he reached out to Warrior Canine Connections, who paid for a two-year-old golden retriever named Gabe to help Justin. The two became instant best friends.
The service dog helps Justin with everyday tasks, such as helping him balance, giving him someone to lean on, and like any true best friend, helps him up when he falls. Gabe has a true heart of gold and has helped Justin recover from his injuries.
“He helps me with one thing to the next. I can use him as a stable surface to lean on, as I get to and from the ground,” Justin said. “If I fall, he’ll come up running next to me and I can use him to push off of to get up off the ground.”
Like any best friend, Gabe is always there for Justin and made sure the wedding went off without a hitch. He did a perfect job of leading Justin and Carol down the aisle and performing his duty as ring bearer.
Justin is so thankful for Gabe, he began fostering puppies to prepare them for service for Warrior Canine Connections and Gabe could not be happier.
In fact, the pair got very attached to a puppy named PJ, who ended up living across the street so Gabe and PJ can still visit each other.