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Greeting people would top the list of things that Wilson least liked to do.

The black Labrador Retriever stayed far away from visitors to the Johnston County (NC) Animal Shelter.  He had no trust of human beings.

That was before shelter volunteer Marcus Holland spotted him and saw something special in the young dog.

A disabled military veteran, Holland was on a wait list for a mobility service dog, but meeting Wilson convinced him that his wait was over.

“When I met Wilson, he was distant and not trusting.  I spent two weeks working with him on developing trust,” the Clayton, NC, resident said. “I spent time walking him and in his kennel, playing, and just spending time with him. “

Wilson began to warm up to Holland and wag his tail when he saw Holland coming towards his kennel.

“A great deal of service dogs are Labs,” he said. “I thought ‘Why couldn’t I train my own service dog?’ ”

Adopted by Holland and his wife Patti, Wilson was registered with North Carolina as a service dog in training and today he is an assistance dog for Holland.

“I saved his life and he saved mine. He’s my four legged angel,” he said.

While working on his service dog qualifications, Wilson passed his therapy dog certification and now brings love and comfort to many in need. Wilson also has qualified for the AKC Therapy Dog title – an honor given to qualifying therapy dogs who are registered with the American Kennel Club. Wilson may be a former shelter dog with an unknown pedigree and no “papers,” but the AKC Canine Partners program enables all dogs, including rescues and mixed-breeds, to participate in AKC events.

Wilson makes weekly visits to the Durham Veterans Administration Medical Center as well as stops at pediatric, geriatric and cancer wards at area hospitals.

“We love bringing smiles to those having a down day,” Holland said. “Wilson is drawn to people needing a little lift or smile.”

Get information on joining the AKC Canine Partners community.