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‘Best boyfriend ever’: Atlanta woman meets new service dog for the first time

Service animals are like family – but it’s not a relationship that happens overnight.

For people with debilitating illnesses, service animals are a lifeline to the rest of the world – but it’s not an instant connection. The person has to meet the dog and get to know them before they can become family.

Sherry Quisenberry is living with ALS in Atlanta. She had a service dog named Kenny, but he wasn’t right for the job. She said it was heartbreaking, and, just like dating, it can be difficult to find the right fit.

“Getting a service dog is not an easy process. Having to wait three, four or even five years is really hard, and not everybody has the time,” Quisenberry said. “Despite Kenny not being the final family member, I am very grateful we have another opportunity.”

Quisenberry is getting ready to bring a new family member into her family – a Golden Retriever named Cactus, who is training to become a service animal through Peach on a Leash, owned by Alex Sessa.

Sessa said it can take up to 6 months to get Cactus up to speed, but once he’s settled, he’ll help Quisenberry feel more like herself.

“I can’t talk about it without crying," she explained. "I mean, losing your independence is so difficult. I call Cactus a someone, because he’s a someone in my life. Having that companionship and someone who accepts you, is there for you, it’s just … I can’t explain it.”

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Jackie Audette, a certified trainer, believes Cactus will be a right fit.

“I’m really excited for them. I think she’s going to love him, how could you not,” Audette asked. “(When he’s all trained up), he’ll be like the best boyfriend ever.”

After meeting at a local park, Quisenberry is planning for life with her new best friend.

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“Not having to constantly ask someone, 'can you get my phone, my cane?' … (I don’t want to) feel like a burden,” Quisenberry said. “I’m just trying to make the best of it … Cactus, I’m glad you came.”

You can follow Cactus and Sherry on their journey as they grow together. Check out 11Alive’s K9Kait section and follow K9Kait on Twitter and Facebook.

K9kait. 8.5K likes. Animal lovers unite! A page for advocacy, love, and justice for our furry friends! Please send me pictures, video, + tips so we can do this together!