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Published February 09, 2013, 09:49 PM

Grand Forks woman trains her own service dog

Grand Forks, ND (WDAY TV) -- When a Grand Forks woman with Cerebral Palsy needed a service dog, she didn't rely on an agency.

By: Kayla Strayer, WDAZ, WDAY

Grand Forks, ND (WDAY TV) -- When a Grand Forks woman with Cerebral Palsy needed a service dog, she didn't rely on an agency.

Anna Magnuson spent hundreds of hours training her boxer-mix Willoh. And Willoh is now certified.

As soon as she got Willoh as a puppy five years ago, Anna went to work training her.

Anna: "Her first task was opening doors."

Since then, Willoh hasn't stopped learning. From flipping on light switches, to potentially saving Anna's life.

Anna: "If I was ever in an emergency I would just tell her to go push 911 and she'd go push the buttons."

But Willoh doesn't just help with physical needs. Anna says having Willoh forces her to be more social.

Anna: "Before people would kind of be scared to talk to me because they would see the wheelchair and wouldn't know what to think."

Anna's mom Kristi agrees, and says a 15 minute shopping trip now turns into an hour.

Kristi Magnuson: "Everybody old people young people will come up and just start talking."

Anna: "I've always been pretty independent, or as independent as I can be, but she's really opened up the doors."

That she has. Every week Willoh, Anna and her friend Hope meet up at places like the River Cinema for some girl time.

Hope Fuglesten: "We just went to a movie."

Karen Fuglesten, Hope's mom: "I feel comfortable with Anna and Willoh taking Hope."

Hope: "She's always really good, she's never really hyper."

Because of this calm temperament, Willoh is also a therapy dog. She goes to nursing homes and visits kids at the library.

Anna: "Pretty much anywhere I go, she goes."

Except on an emergency helicopter ride.

Anna recalls a time when she had to be life flighted. She was separated from Willoh for three days.

Anna: "She stopped eating all together."

Kristi: "I even cooked hamburger for her and she wouldn't eat. She took a bite in her mouth and just spit it out."

What would your life be like without dogs?

Anna: "Oh boy, it would be very lonely. but it would also be a lot harder."

Willoh's latest skill, learning how to do laundry.

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