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Student: Getting Guide Dog Like Winning Lottery

By David13676 @dogspired

DiezelMatthew Pettit dreamed about Diezel long before the 67 pounds of jet black fur came into his life, back when he was a third-grader at Prescott Elementary and first heard the term guide dog.

“I wanted it so bad I used to pretend like I had one,” said Pettit, now a 20-year-old senior at Southwest High School who has been blind and deaf since birth.

He had to wait until he was older, though, until he’d gotten through Irving Middle School and spent seven years at Southwest High School, until he’d become an accomplished braillist who saw graduation on the horizon and dreams of college in his future.

He applied for a guide dog about a year ago, and his application was approved in February. The 18-month-old black Lab made his entrance July 14 at 1:30 p.m., when Pettit waited inside his home with a handful of treats.

“It was almost like I won the lottery,” he told the Lincoln Journal Star.

The process takes a while because trainers look for a good match — and Petitt was pretty sure right off the bat they had done a good job of that.

They’re both energetic, both curious, one a talker, the other a good listener. And the energy part was obvious immediately.

“When he first came in the house, he was energetic,” Pettit said. “I like energetic dogs because I’m energetic, too.”

In fact, Diezel helps Petitt slow down in the crowded school hallways.

“I used to go 100 mph in the hallway,” he said. “I will admit that.”Before Diezel, Pettit used a cane to get around the school plus assistance from a lot of others. He has an interpreter who helps him in class, and he also works with Jill Bohlen, a teacher for the visually impaired and a mobility specialist; a speech and language pathologist; and teachers for the hearing impaired and assistive technology.

Now he has exchanged the cane for Diezel.

Lincoln Public Schools has had therapy dogs for several years, but this is the first guide dog in at least 15 years, Pettit said.

When they knew Pettit would be bringing Diezel this year, LPS administrators talked to teachers and made sure his classmates didn’t have allergies. And they have educated other students about Diezel’s purpose: He’s there to work, not to play, said Bohlen, who has worked with Pettit since he was young.

Diezel is a great source of conversation with his fellow classmates, Pettit said.

But they’ve had to learn that despite the friendly, dark eyes and wagging tail, they can’t pet the dog, because it will interfere with his work — and his relationship with Pettit.

That’s still developing.

“It will be six months to a year before we are a seasoned team,” he said.

But they’re figuring each other out.

“I have someone to talk to when there’s something that can’t stay in my brain any longer,” he said.

Diezel sleeps next to Pettit’s bed and eats his Purina Dog Chow while Pettit finishes his Cheerios. They ride to school together, and Diezel curls up near Pettit’s desk during class and relaxes under the table while Pettit eats lunch.

After graduation, Pettit hopes to go to college and plans to attend the Helen Keller National Center in New York, where he’ll learn independent living skills.

He’s not worried about flying. He’s already done that on his own.

And this time he won’t really be alone. Because by then, he and Diezel will be seasoned partners.

And he already knows this much about his partner: Diezel loves airports.

~ Courtesy of Blue Ridge Now

Tags: dog in classroom, guide dog, service dog, student dog

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