Service dog Belle is helping local resident Brock Meeks cope with the lingering effects of a life-changing crash 17 years ago.

Seventeen years ago a car crash nearly claimed the life of a 16-year-old Memphis boy. Doctors didn’t expect Brock Meeks to survive the massive head injuries he sustained when he was thrown from his vehicle that overturned several times.

Not only did he survive, but 52 days after the incident, Meeks returned home to resume life in Scotland County. His vision would never be the same, and Meeks had to work to regain even the most simple motor skills, but if you saw him for the first time today, you would likely have no idea the ordeal that he has been through and continues to battle.

While most of his injuries have healed, Meeks still is reminded daily about the fateful day back in February 2001. There is the physical pain topped off with issues with his sight. And unfortunately there is the mental anguish. Brock deals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the anxiety and depression that accompany the recurrent and unwanted memories of the traumatic experience.

Even after all of that, if you saw Brock on the street or at the store, you would have witnessed a smile and likely have been engaged in conversation. That shine on the outside hid his internal battles from most people, but ultimately new health concerns finally allowed him to get help for his emotional battle.

While he spent plenty of time in the doctor’s office, Meek finally was able to find some peace through a veterinary clinic. It wasn’t doctoring that Meeks received, but an introduction to the concept of a service dog.

Last year at the Clark County Mule Festival, Brock came home with a puppy.  Belle is a mixed breed, half Border Collie and half Blue Healer.

Months after she joined the Meeks family she was sent to the On Command Canine Training Academy in Joplin. Trainer Tim Franks worked with Belle to teach her the skills she would need to help improve Brock’s mobility as well as his peace of mind and safety.

The facility specializes in canine training for Autism service dogs as well as seizure response and service dogs for individuals suffering from neurological, behavioral and emotional impairments.

The two-month training period allowed Belle to learn commands that will impact Brock’s safety as well as improve his mental state.

“Of course Belle was only there for a month and a half because she is so smart,” Brock said.

The canine performs service in a variety of ways, such as the simple calming presence that Belle provides, helping with anxiety and to stave off depression.

The dog also acts as “social lubricant”, a term the academy uses to describe how the service dog is a tool to help its owner in interactions with others, serving as a bridge to initiate conversations and ultimately to attract some attention to the handler.

Belle can also work to help with Brock’s balance, both physical and mental.

“She is trained to block, both in front and behind of me,” said Brock. “If I give the command, she will move between me a target to create space to help relieve anxiety. Of course if I really need that, I just give her the command to lean against my leg.”

Belle is trained to detect seizures and also is adept in mobility assistance.

But ultimately it is stability that Belle brings to Brock’s life.

“The dogs serve as an emotional and sometimes physical anchor for those who live in a world that feels disorienting and confusing,” said the company. “When unexpected change or transitions easily offset the emotional balance, the consistency of an assistance dog’s behavior helps you be more able to cope with the unexpected.”

The cost of the training service was well over $5,000. Meeks said that a number of local donors helped him pay for the initial deposit.

“Thanks to some very generous folks, the first half of the cost was paid for,” said Meeks. “I can’t thank these people enough.”

Anyone interested in helping retire the second half of the debt can contact 660-342-9061.