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Service Dogs on Vol State Campuses

Gus the dog is a service dog at volstate
Gus the dog is a service dog at volstate

By Kailyn Fouriner
Service Dogs can be useful to someone with disabilities, as a dog can be trained speci c skill sets to help out their potential owners. One such dog is an 18 month old English Labrador who goes by the name of Tink. Her owner, Andrew Thorsett, is a student hereatVolunteerStateCommunityCollege and says she helps him out immensely. Her primary job is to help him navigate around obstacles and nd doorknobs he cannot see on his own. The two were matched together by Pilot Dogs Inc. and have been together 3 months now. Though, Thorsett has never had a service dog besides her, he says that Tink is just like any other dog when he takes her service harness off. Service dogs have a wide range of jobs they can be trained for, and one person who would know is Shelby Swaby. Swaby is also a student, and has raised and trained service dogs for Retrieving Independence the past two years. Her passion to train them blossomed when her friend had Swaby watch her dog named Angel. Angel was a service dog, and since then she has raised three others. Her newest dog, a Golden Retriever named Gus, is still in training to go to someone with seizures, diabetes, or problems with mobility. Gus is in the stage of training where Swaby has to get him used to being in new places, and being around a lot of people. When he is working, he has a harness that says to not pet him. Out of the four dogs she has trained, only one has gone to an owner. Swaby states that she has, however, heard some amazing stories about other dogs she has not raised. “One of the dogs, Kip,” Swaby says, “was given to an 85 year old woman who had a car accident. She was limited to her house, but then heard about the program, and was assigned Kip. The two have traveled everywhere since.” She goes on to state that another dog, Rex, has also had an impact on his owner’s life. “A man that has seizures, diabetes, and is in a wheelchair got a dog from Retrieving Independence name Rex. Rex is a Lab, Golden Retriever mix and [he] is the sweetest dog. One night Rex was barking and whining for the man to wake up. The dog had apparently sensed that his owner’s blood sugar was low, and had alerted his owner, but on the man’s way to the fridge, he passed out. “When he woke up,” Swaby continues, “he had every kind of drink in the fridge around his head with the dog licking his face.” Both Swaby and Thorsett agree that service dogs are a benefit,but a concern could arise though, if a teacher doesn’t want a dog in class. Luckily Swaby’s instructor for English Composition I, Patricia Highers, is fully supportive of the service dogs. In fact, on the topic of Swaby bringing Gus to class to train, Ms. Highers’ only concern was to make sure that Swaby had gotten the right documentation by going through the disabilities center. Though Ms. Highers has never had a student in class with a service dog, she has some deaf students who needed another person as an assistant. Based on mutual trust and cooperation, Ms. Highers views these two ways of assistance very similar. Ms. Highers nds service dogs to be fascinating, and believes with more awareness and support, they could be a help to more people. Ultimately, she feels that service dogs are, “[one of the] things in this world we don’t utilize as much as we should.”

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