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MARQUETTE – If you’re a student at Northern Michigan University, you may have met Welles.
He may seem like any other dog, but those students on NMU’s campus know otherwise. Welles is a service dog working in the university’s Veteran Student Services office.
“He gets visitors all day long,” says Michael Rutledge, Coordinator of Student Veteran Services and Welles’ owner. “Not many of them are veterans actually, I get a lot of non-veterans coming into my office just to visit him. When I see how happy it makes a student, staff or faculty member for that matter when they interact with him, of course that helps me. It’s a win-win situation.”
Rutledge was first assigned a service dog, Onyx, when he left the army in 2004 to help with his PTSD. When she passed in 2015, that’s when Welles came in to his life.
“Everybody’s different,” said Rutledge. “Some people may respond to therapy, medication, some other new treatments particularly for PTSD, but for me the dogs just worked. That was the one thing that worked the best.”
Welles came from “Dogs In Honor,” a program for service dogs in Traverse City.
A service dog, not to be confused with a therapy dog, is trained to provide their handler assistance with their disability.
“He can put clothes from the laundry basket into the dryer, usually picking up my keys is what he’s doing,” said Rutledge. “I can also use him to get up and down. He can brace, he’ll stand firm and I can use him to push up and down to get down into a lower chair for instance.”
And, according to students, he’s well-known across campus.
“People really like to see Welles, I mean any college kid likes to see dogs so having one who’s always on campus and always hanging around is a lot of fun for people,” says Hannah Hawkins, student tour guide at NMU. “He’s also one of the most well behaved dogs of all-time. They get to see him do tricks, walk around without a leash, he does it all. People think it’s really fun.”
If you happen to see Welles on campus, feel free to pet him; he really likes it.