Local man who lost legs in childhood accident finds lifelong friend, helper through service dog program

HOUSTON — Joe Banda was just three years old living in Laredo, Texas when an accident on train tracks changed his life forever.

“He waits for another gap between the wheels and he tosses me out, but I don’t make it all the way out and the train cuts my legs about four inches from my hip," explained Banda.

He was fortunate to be alive, but faced enormous challenges. He learned to do things for himself, and that’s how he made it work for years.

Now, he’s got a sidekick who’s always ready to help.

“McCovey is a service dog. Two and a half years old. He’s fully trained to be a mobility assistance dog and he’s pushed me to that next level of independence. He knows how to turn on the light, turn off the light, open drawers, close drawers.”

Joe got McCovey through Canine Companions for Independence, a national non-profit that trains and connects people with service dogs.

“He’s professional. He’s serious. We head out the door to work, gets in the car. Everyone at work knows him. Most of the time they may not know my name, but they know his name.”

More than helping with doors and lights, Joe says McCovey just makes life better.

“He’s part of the family now. We can’t imagine ourselves living a day without him. He looks at me like 'I’m here for you. I love you. ­­Do you need me to do anything?' That is just a small glimpse of what I believe to be God’s unconditional love.”

Banda is in the process of writing a book; one that he says will be encouraging to anyone who reads it. He’s expecting the book to be finished by early next spring.

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