Her Hero

While most college students grab their books on the way out the door to class, one Sam Houston State University student grabs her bag and her dog.

A recent service dog recipient, junior Sheena Walters says she is blessed to have her three year-old yellow lab, Pebbles.

“She is great and she is such a blessing to me,” Walters said. “She helps me keep my balance, helps me up and down stairs and she even pushes the buttons on the elevators for me.”

Diagnosed with Spasticgate Cerebral Palsy just prior to her freshman year of college, Walters was in need of a service animal to help her accomplish her everyday tasks.

Through video requests, interviews and countless questionnaires, Walters was notified a few months back that she was chosen to receive a service dog, with the exception being that she was required to pay the fee for the dog, with money that she did not have. Responding to an article written in September, two SHSU students anonymously donated the money Walters needed.

“People gave me money and now I even have enough money saved up to purchase her food and pay for her veterinarian checkups,” Walters said. “The Lions Club donated money to me to pay for her training.”

One of the requirements of receiving a service dog from K9Partners is a series of training sessions that the new owner and the dog must complete in order to stay up to date on all their certifications.

“Within the first year I have to meet 10-12 times with a trainer who charges $100 per hour,” Walters said. “The trainer comes to my apartment and makes sure Pebbles and I are doing everything correctly.”

While Walters says receiving a service animal is like having a child, she says she no longer is lonely and she doesn’t mind taking care of Pebbles.

“She’s more of a help than a hindrance,” Walters said. “With Pebbles, I am not as lonely and I feel much safer when I walk with her at night.”

When most students see Pebbles with Walters, they not only assume she is blind, but they also try to pet Pebbles. These are small issues that can create large problems for Walters.

“Most people have been very positive towards her, but some have been very scared of her,” Walters said. “Part of my job after receiving a service animal is to educate others about it.”

Walters says she would like to remind people that Pebbles is a Service Animal, and she must not be distracted by other humans because she will not be able to accomplish her job correctly and efficiently.

“People need to understand they can not pet her because she can not perform correctly,” Walters said. “Through touch, a Pebbles bond with me and this is why I must be the only one who interacts with her.”

Every morning, Pebbles gets a harness (weighing less than five pounds) put on her back to act as a moving handrail for Walters. Also attached to the side of her harness are two packs which carry portable water and food bowls as well as food and informational brochures to educate others.

“Some people tell me she looks sad, but she loves to work,” Walters said. “She gets bored when she is not working. In the morning when I pick up the harness, she gets excited and lays her head in my lap as I put it on her.”

As nature is, you may be wondering when and where Walters takes Pebbles to use the bathroom while she is on Campus.

“I take Pebbles outside in between classes, and she only goes on command,” Walters said. “Bags are attached to her harness and I just find it common courtesy to clean up after my dog when she relieves herself.”

Walters says she has had a lot of fun with Pebbles already.

“One time in class she started snoring and my teacher thought it was a student,” Walters said. “When my teacher realized it was Pebbles, our class started laughing.”

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