On Dec. 15, 2022, Greer the PT Puppy walked the stage at the PT Ring and Pinning Ceremonies to celebrate graduating from her 14-month basic training program at HSU.
Training for a service dog can cost upward of $60,000, a financial mark that prevents the service for those who need it the most, so the Hardin-Simmons Physical Therapy (HSU PT) Department has partnered as a volunteer puppy raiser with Canine Companions, a nonprofit organization that provides service dogs to people with disabilities at no cost.
“Our main emphasis with her has been socialization; getting her accustomed to various situations, environments, people, activities, and animals is crucial,” shared Dr. Wendy Anemaet, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy. “Additionally, we worked on basic training with her, which includes about 30 commands that she needs to be able to perform immediately, eagerly, and in any situation regardless of distractions. The commands we work with her on will be further developed when she goes to professional training, so she needs to be comfortable with them.”
Like other programs at HSU, the PT Department regularly incorporates service into its curriculum with yearly mission trips, fundraising projects, and volunteering with local nonprofits. These opportunities provide curriculum enrichment that extends the classroom out into the field. Students often use the skills and training developed in the classroom and apply them to individuals and the community.
Various PT students and faculty, called the Puppy Team, share duties while caring for Greer. Greer spends the day in the PT building, attending classes and clinicals, and goes home with a different member of the team at night. Like any dog, there are designated potty breaks, mealtimes, and play times that the students need to account for in their busy schedules.
“The students have done an amazing job caring for and training Greer. They have taken her from an 8-week-old puppy who knew no real commands to be proficient in all 30 of her commands, most even with major distractions,” shared Dr. Anemaet.
Raising Greer is another way for HSU PT to provide service, while also providing a learning opportunity for students. Greer’s presence has introduced students to the benefit service animals can bring to their future doctors’ offices. Additionally, her positive presence is currently felt in the PT building, brightening the halls with laughter and collaborative learning.
Greer is headed for full-time professional training at the South-Central Training Center in Irving, Texas, where she will be joined by other dogs from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. After she completes her health examination, she will begin a six-month training program.
When her training is finished, Greer’s impact will be vast as she increases independence and impacts the overall lifestyle of her future owner.
“Greer has been one of the greatest gifts. She has been there in times of joy, stress, excitement, frustration, and all the other emotions that are embedded in our daily lives as doctoral graduate students,” shared second-year PT student Avery Allen. “I am going to be so sad to say goodbye but if Greer has made this much of an impact on us, I cannot wait to see how she can change the life of someone who will rely on her assistance and support.”