It’s 2005 and Sgt. Corey Briest is riding in a humvee as a member of the Army National Guard drive through Iraq. He’s in the third vehicle of the convoy. The first humvee passes through a checkpoint. As the second moves forward, a roadside bomb explodes. Corey’s humvee stops to assess the situation. Serving as their squad’s medic, Corey knows they have to assist the injured—but when they move on, their humvee is hit as well.
“I trust Corey with my life,” says 1st Sgt. George Arends, a friend, and a fellow soldier. “Sgt. Briest displays all the values and characteristics of a true hero. He demonstrated this the very day of his injury by moving forward into the kill zone to assist fellow members of his squad.”
Corey was severely injured that day. He sustained traumatic brain injuries, which left him legally blind and affected his ability to speak, his balance, and short-term memory.
He spent a hectic year of recovery with his wife, Jenny and their 4-year-old daughter, Kylie and 1-year-old son, Connor. “At the beginning, he couldn’t walk, talk—anything,” explains Jenny.
A journey of surgeries and rehabilitation began in Germany, then moved to Maryland, to Minnesota, back to Maryland, and then to California.
While Corey and his family were bouncing from state to state, their hometown of Yankton, South Dakota was hard at work, building the family an accessible home. “[We have] wonderful community support here,” Jenny says. “Awesome,” adds Corey.
After moving into their new home, the couple went a few years juggling young children, rehabilitation, and therapy, while trying to navigate life with Corey’s new disabilities. But it was difficult for Corey, relying on his wife for most of his daily needs. He didn’t feel independent anymore, and he wanted that feeling again.
So the couple researched their options and decided to apply to Can Do Canines. They liked that they wouldn’t need to travel elsewhere for training and that Can Do Canines would work with them in their home. “Corey has had enough time away from his family,” Jenny said at the time.
Gets a partner…
In 2010, Corey was matched with Baker, a hefty Black Labrador Retriever weighing in at 83 pounds. Corey could hold onto Baker’s harness while they walked providing Corey with better balance. At home, Baker would lead Corey to the bathroom and then back to his favorite chair in the living room. He picked things up for Corey or could get a phone if there was an emergency. Baker gave Corey a sense of security. He gave him his independence back.
After almost ten years working together, Baker passed away in February 2018. His friend, safety net, and sense of security wasn’t there anymore. For a year, Corey didn’t stay home alone. Not once. It just wasn’t safe. And Corey didn’t like that. “He had that independence, and it was taken away,” Jenny says. Just like when he was first injured, Corey needed to adapt to significant changes in his life.
His day-to-day living was harder without Baker. During their time together, Corey had another surgery. Since the operation, he’s had more trouble walking, and his left hand lost some function. With Baker around to help, the changes weren’t as noticeable. But without Baker, Core was becoming frustrated. “His frustration level—after Baker passed you saw that increase,” Jenny says. “A lot,” Corey adds.
They wanted Corey to feel independent again, and to have the ability to get something he dropped, to get the phone, and to stay home alone. “That helps the whole family out—when dad feels good and dad feels safe,” Jenny explains. This was a job for an assistance dog.
They applied to Can Do Canines again and were matched with Mobility Assist Dog Quiz. “Remember how excited you were when we stayed [at Can Do Canines]? She got to be overnight with you the first night,” Jenny says to Corey. “She was my dog already,” Corey says.
The two bonded quickly, and they’re the best of friends. Corey’s favorite part of the day? When he wakes up in the morning and Quiz comes to greet him. “She is right there like ‘Oh my gosh I haven’t seen you for 8 hours!’” Jenny imitates the Black Labrador Retriever.
Independence and more smiles
Besides the puppy love, Quiz is making a big difference in Corey’s life—and his family’s. “[Quiz] gives him that little piece of independence back,” Jenny says. Now Corey can stay home alone while Jenny runs errands or takes the kids to school.
But they’re doing more than just the day-to-day. In fact, Quiz hopes to rack up some frequent flier miles with her partner Corey. They’ve already traveled to Washington, D.C., and she’s even visited the White House!
Quiz also attends therapy with Corey, where he’s working on walking again. “Some days it’s easier, some days it’s really hard,” Jenny says. But every day is better with Quiz by Corey’s side. “We’ll make memories,” says Corey with a big smile.
Corey, Jenny, and their kids are grateful for Quiz. Without all the selfless volunteers who raised her and the generous donors who made her possible, Corey and his family’s life would look much different today. “Thank you, she’s a good girl,” Corey says. “She always makes me laugh,” he says with a smile.
You can help provide more service dogs to people living with disabilities by donating today.
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser: Jennifer & Shane Newman
Whelping Home: Patti & Rick Dougherty
Breeder Host: Patti & Rick Dougherty
You: Thank you for your donations!