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Giant Schnauzer with a Giant Heart

Kobe provides companionship and amusement for his owner, Lori Thompson

You could say a lot of good things about Kobe, a 2 ½-year-old Giant Schnauzer living with the Thompson family in Minooka.

She doesn't shed.

She fetches the newspapers.

She can be trusted not to leave the yard.

She knows at least 30 words.

The most important thing? Kobe makes Lori Thompson laugh.

Lori, 33, has cerebral palsy. A series of a half dozen family dogs have provided amusement through the years. But everyone in the family knows that Kobe is truly special.

Named after Lori's favorite beef, Kobe has a white heart on her black chest. It's just an emblem of the bigger heart inside. Kobe instinctively knows to play gentle with Lori, not to scratch or jump on her.

"Since she was a baby, Lori has loved dogs," says her mother, Barb. "It's company."

Lori has a big heart too. She first came to media attention about 12 years ago when she was named Homecoming Queen at Joliet Central High School by fellow classmates. She's got a winning smile that's hard to resist and hard to dampen.

It's as if two like spirits – one dog, one human -- found each other. To me, that's just the universal law of attraction.

Sometimes disabled kids grow up feeling self-entitled from all the attention, says Lori's mom. Lori isn't one of them.

She's a loyal friend who still stays in touch with several of her former teachers and aides. Lori also went to Joliet Junior College for a year and a half.

You see, cerebral palsy doesn't cripple the mind but some people don't realize that. Lori's active mind despises inactivity. She loves summer best of all because she can spend a lot of it outdoors. Winter brings vacations in Hawaii or other warm climates. There is nearby family that visits, including her 29-year-old brother, Casey.

"Casey says Kobe has replaced him," says mom.

Lori's on Facebook a lot and her favorite TV shows include "Survivor" and "Amazing Race."  Lori and her mom are working again on "Make Your Mark" dedicated to the late Mark Staehely of Shorewood, whom they both admire for his tenacity against a fatal illness. They'll help to gather up Christmas presents for young patients at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

A slow day is perked up by an impromptu trip to PetSmart. It's safe to say this pup doesn't lack for much.

Besides all the words Kobe knows (how many dogs do you know you constantly have to spell around), she can differentiate between her favorite toys. Dini, for example, is her plastic dinosaur. Say the word and she can pull it from her large basket of playthings. Ditto for a dozen others.

Even though the spirited Kobe is no small dog, she thinks she's a lap dog. But after having two miniature Schnauzers, Lori wanted something she could pet from her wheelchair.

Kobe fits that bill.

But here's a plus: If Lori's in her lighter wheelchair, Kobe has been known to push her mistress around.

Now, how many dogs do that?   

       Jan Larsen coordinates volunteers at Joliet Job Corps. She has two Siamese cats, Freya and Friggia, and a Siberian husky, Frosty. She loves to write about and photograph animals more than anything in the world. Except maybe travel. You can reach her at janettellarsen@aol.com

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