the 25-year-old who lost her hands, feet and her entire right leg to
flesh-eating bacteria more than a year ago, has a new helper: a black
labradoodle named Belle.
Belle, who is a year old, started training when she was a 3-month-old puppy, said her trainer Crystal Callahan, who owns the Psychiatric Service Dog Academy and Registry
in Cocoa, Fla. Belle will be able to help Copeland get back up if she
falls down, pick things up if she drops them and deliver her medications
"I'm just loving her and so excited to have that new addition and that new help," Copeland told WSB-TV, the ABC News affiliate in Atlanta.
Read about Copeland's interview with Katie Couric.
Copeland and Belle met for the first time this past weekend, and spent
time getting to know one another over the last two nights, Callahan
said. Belle will return to Florida for another few weeks to complete her
training. After that, she'll move in with Copeland permanently.
Callahan decided Belle was the best dog for Copeland about six months ago, she said.
"She's extremely sociable, loves people, loves attention and is a very
friendly, outgoing dog," Callahan told ABCNews.com. "Their personalities
just matched perfectly."
And since Copeland is allergic to most dogs, Belle is hypoallergenic.
"Labradoodles are much more allergy-friendly dogs," Callahan said.
"That's what took so long to find the right dog, a hypoallergenic dog
with the right temperament and a working dog."
But owning a dog takes work. Belle has to be walked. To do that,
Callahan helped her learn how to use a hands-free leash. It clips around
Copeland's waist and onto Belle's collar.
Copeland cut open her right leg falling from a zip line near the
Tallapoosa River in Georgia in April 2012, allowing a deadly bacterium
to enter her body. She said she sensed something wasn't quite right days
after receiving 22 stitches to close the wound on her calf because it
hurt up to her thigh.
The bacteria advanced undetected until her leg turned "a dark purple color," Copeland said on the set of ABC's "Katie" talk show in September.
"I wasn't able to walk," she told show host Katie Couric. "I wasn't able
to speak. The only thing I was able to babble was, 'I think I'm
After being in and out of the emergency room with the painful wound that
wouldn't heal, doctors realized Copeland had necrotizing fasciitis and
amputated her leg from the hip.
Later, when her hands turned black, doctors amputated them, too.
Copeland spent two months in a hospital and another two months in
rehabilitation before returning to her renovated Snellville, Ga., home
in late August 2012.
She received bionic hands in mid-May.
Read about Copeland's bionic hands.
With Copeland's inspiration, Callahan has formed a new organization, PawsOfMind.org,
which hopes to provide free service dogs to 3,000 individuals each
year. Callahan currently provides service dogs to 200 people a year. The
new organization will have a fundraiser in Georgia this November.
"It's just such an amazing cause and such a great organization that I'm
just so thrilled to be partnering," Copeland told WSB-TV.