LAS VEGAS, Nev. — When retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Mike Malarsie awoke in a hospital bed in 2010 he was told he’d never see again.
KVVU reports that a week earlier, Malarsie and four others were crossing a bridge in Afghanistan when he stepped on an explosive device.
“It detonated, and the next thing I knew I was in the water, under this bridge,” Malarsie said.
Malarsie dealt with his injuries as best he could, refusing to let them hold him back.
“I’ve got no right to feel sorry for myself. I can’t let this – being blind – beat me, because I’m so fortunate to be alive,” Malarsie said.
Still, Malarsie said going from being very active to having to use a cane to get around was difficult to adjust to.
“I was always getting stuck in the cracks in the sidewalk, and I hated hitting people in the ankles when I got around. It was really frustrating and I really didn’t like it,” he said.
In 2011 Malarsie’s life was changed forever. He contacted a friend about getting a guide dog, and Xxon, a German Shepherd, arrived at his New Mexico home a little later.
“When I got Xxon … I remember the first walk that I took with him. It felt like I was running again. It was so liberating, and he completely changed my attitude. He gave me so much more confidence to just get out, to be a part of society again, to try different things,” Malarsie said.
Xxon helped Malarsie return to work, making him the only blind active duty airman in the Air Force. They’ve been inseparable ever since.
On Wednesday, Malarsie and Xxon were nominated in the Guide and Hearing Dog category at the Hero Dog Awards at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, which is put on by the American Humane Association.
“We’re so excited to be here, to be involved, and to be sponsored by Chicken Soup for the Soul. They’ve been phenomenal,” Malarsie said.
The winners of the Hero Dog Awards will be announced in September.