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2015 November 17 - 03:41 pm

Man’s Best Friend: Dog Joins Ivy Tech Student on Campus

Assistance Dog Helps Student Be Independent

RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) — During his freshman year at Ivy Tech Community College in Richmond, Devin Kirtley of Centerville got around by himself.

Now he has assistance. Over the summer, Kirtley was paired with Ben, a service dog from Canine Companions for Independence in Delaware, Ohio.

Ben is not Kirtley’s first canine helper. His first service dog, Ares, also came from CCI.

Ares assisted Kirtley, who was born with cerebral palsy, for nearly a decade. Last year, Ares was too old and ill to join Kirtley in his new adventure at Ivy Tech. Ares died in the spring.

Kirtley said it was kind of rough going through training with Ben, not because the dog was hard to get used to, but because Ares had been gone such a short time.

Ben is trained to respond to more than 40 commands to assist with physical tasks. He helps Kirtley by pulling doors open, pushing buttons and picking up objects as small as a credit card.

“That’s mainly what I use him for,” said Kirtley.

Without Ben’s assistance, Kirtley has to ask other people for help.

Ben rides with Kirtley to campus in a bus with a wheelchair lift. He waits patiently in the front of the bus while Kirtley’s chair is lowered out the back exit, then hurries down the steps to meet his master. Ben picks up his leash and hands it to Kirtley, then trots alongside the motorized chair. At the elevator, Ben pushes the call button with his nose.

“He’s a life saver,” Kirtley said. “I don’t have to ask people to help me so much.”

Classmates take Ben’s presence in stride. “They know to leave him alone,” Kirtley said.

Kirtley is studying informatics, the study of how people interact with computers to increase productivity and enhance communication. He hopes to go into the field of computer repair.

He unreservedly recommends a service dog to anyone who qualifies for one.

Source: (Richmond) Palladium-Item, http://pinews.co/1k6O1yA

Information from: Palladium- Item, http://www.pal-item.com

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