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Monte is just like any other playful and energetic year and a half old puppy, except for when he dawns his vest and becomes a service dog. Monte is a partner to Anna Knight, a student at Lorain County Community College and medic in the military. He provides her constant comradery and support. Knight adopted Monte from the Elyria Animal Protective League (APL) in February 2015 after the death of one of her family dogs. Knight fondly remembers the day she met Monte. “He was apart of a litter and he was the smallest one at nine pound when we got him,” said Knight. Now 70 pounds, Monte is a far cry from the nine pound, 8-week-old puppy he once was.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” Such tasks range from pulling a wheelchair to calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to the American Humane Association there are 20,000 service dogs in the United States.
To Knight, Monte is more than just a task manager. “I believe a service dog is like a companion. Just like if you had your dog at home, it’s a companion to you. But a service dog is more so that when you’re outside of your house he’s still your companion and he can still help you in certain way,” said Knight. Monte aids Knight by keeping her on track, “I’m very bad at focusing, but when I have him I’m like ‘Alright, I’m focused,’” said Knight.
Monte is not the only service dog on LCCC’s campus, but he’s one of a handful of shelter dogs to earn the accreditation. According to a study by Paws With a Cause, an organization that seeks to educate and advocate for service dogs, only a humble percentage of shelter dogs meet the requirements to become certified. In fact, the study determined that “fewer than one shelter dog in a hundred is capable of becoming a service dog.” The number dwindles down as applicants are run through several screening processes, like temperament and physical health, to determine their eligibility. This leaves just 2 percent of shelter dogs to complete training, and only one in eight of those canines will be accepted into the program. Of the remaining contenders not all will finish the program.
Even though Monte has an occupation he doesn’t follow the traditional 9-5 work day and only wears his vest a maximum of six hours per day. When he’s not working, Monte is like a puppy at play.
“He likes to go and run around in circles and do all the puppy sort of things when I take the vest off of him, and the leash he usually understands ‘Oh, I’m about to do something fun,’” said Knight. Even before heading off to campus, Knight makes sure he’s well fed and takes him for a four mile run.
While most LCCC students give Monte his space, not everyone realizes that he’s not there to socialize. Even though Monte is under no legal obligation to wear
a vest, he wears it to remind the community that he’s a dog on the job. “I had to buy a patch though so nobody would mess with him. Some people still come up to him and pet, but I say ‘No, he’s working,’” said Knight. In fact, the patches on his vest say, ‘In training. Please don’t pet me, I’m working.’
His vest not only serves as a notice, but as storage for his belongings, according to Knight. “He can carry his own stuff with this vest, that’s what I like about it, and also it make people not ask questions like it’s oblivious he’s a service animal,” said Knight.
Knight credits Monte’s behavior to his training. “When he has the leash and vest on, he knows to be standing there and listening to me and that’s all with training,” said Knight.