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Service dog community grows in MC / Chloe Newton

Photo: Chloe Newton Caption: (L to R) Caroline Tate, Rebecca Pyburn, Sam Glaze and Damon Purdy have been friends for about a year. His service dogs, (from left to right) Meadow, Beans, and Cooper, have been an important part of his MC journey.

Many of us are familiar with the movie. Beautiful woman. In this romantic comedy, Vivian Ward, the star character and prostitute, walks into a high-end clothing store, dressed in not-so-luxury clothes. The store clerk immediately refuses to help Vivian. The next day, Vivian returns in a designer outfit and the store clerk, who lives off the commission, doesn’t recognize her. The clerk offers to help Vivian, but she refuses the help and leaves the store. Moral of the story: don’t judge others by how they look. Moms repeatedly remind their children to be nice to everyone and not to look at people who look different. These are basic manners. Even on a college campus, where students come from all backgrounds and experiences, the same rules apply, especially when it comes to service dog handlers.

Many people never know that having a service dog is an option for them; Sam Glaze, a computer science student from Gulfport, Mississippi, used to be one of those people. Glaze is currently in the process of training her service dog Beans, a black-mouthed dog.

“[The option of having a service dog has] it has always been there, but nobody really knew it. He wouldn’t have had Beans if he hadn’t known [my friends here] because I wouldn’t have even known it was an option,” Glaze said.

MC is home to two fully trained service dogs and one service dog in training. While the natural inclination is to run up to the dog, greet it and pet it, these actions can be detrimental to the life of the handler. Therefore, it is important to know how to treat service dogs.

A service dog is a dog specially trained to help a person in situations of great anxiety and in situations where medical attention is needed. There are two types of service dogs: medical and psychiatric. A medical service dog helps people with physical illnesses like epilepsy and diabetes complete everyday, mundane tasks. On the other hand, psychiatric service dogs are more wired for unseen disabilities such as mental illness and learning disabilities.

Retaining a service dog can be a tedious process; Varies from state to state. Some go through an agency and others train their own dogs. The process consists of an initial application, interviews, home visits, meetings, and sometimes fundraising. To attend MC, service dog handlers must complete an application and their case must be legitimized by the MC faculty. Once on campus, service dog handlers must live in East, West, or Quick due to ventilation systems. In addition to having their dogs, however, service dog handlers live lives similar to other students on campus.

PC: Rebecca Pyburn, Caption: (L to R) Beans, Meadow and Cooper not only enjoy spending time with their owners, they also love to have fun together. Together, they have been trained in more than 50 tasks.

Rebecca Pyburn, a Christian studies student from Memphis, Tennessee, has owned her golden retriever, Meadow, for six years. During her first year at MC, Pyburn suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I couldn’t go to the cafeteria or to the Commons. I had panic attacks several times a week, sometimes several times a day. It got to the point where I really couldn’t be in school without help,” Pyburn said.

At the time, Meadow had been trained for four years by Pyburn to be a therapy dog. Meadow now functions as a psychiatric service dog.

Pyburn said, “There is such joy that I can now function like a normal human being… Only the Lord could have made it all work as perfectly as when I was already training a dog.”

Damon Purdy is a business administration student from St. Marys, Ga. He has had his medical service dog, Cooper, for five years. Cooper is trained in 42 different tasks.

Purdy said: “Specifically for me, it’s for Asperger’s syndrome, as well as various other complications. at least for [Cooper]it is able to detect the pheromones that I emit when I am anxious, nervous or uncomfortable in a situation and can end up comforting me in many ways.”

The main task service dogs are trained for is deep pressure. Deep pressure is the act of the dog putting his head (or his entire body in some circumstances) in his owner’s lap. Caroline Tate explained that it works the same way a heavy blanket works for someone with anxiety.

Tate, a math education student from Dallas, Texas, is close friends with Glaze, Purdy, and Pyburn. Tate has become an expert in service dog etiquette.

Tate was “blissfully unaware of service dog jargon” before meeting Pyburn, Purdy, and Glaze. As he spent more time with his friends, Tate learned the ins and outs of service dogs and how people should treat service dogs. Rule number one, when it comes to approaching service dogs and their handlers, is to ignore the dog completely.

“The way I’ve explained it before is if you’re a Harry Potter fan, pretend they have the invisibility cloak on them,” Tate said.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the story behind someone’s service dog can be a touchy subject. Difficult experiences can arise in the life of a service dog handler.

Glaze said: “For us, [getting a service dog] It was not a light decision. It was not a fun decision to make.”

For many people, it is not an option. Service dogs are your only option to live life in a semi-normal way. Dogs are truly amazing creatures that God has created not only for the enjoyment of man but also to help him in daily life.

The service dog community on the MC campus is expected to grow in the coming years, and it is critical that students learn to treat service dogs and their handlers with respect and love.

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