ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Hardin-Simmons’ Physical Therapy Program is one of the leading programs in the nation and also the only program in Texas that had students train a dog to be a service animal all year. The fall 2022 graduates from this program sat beside the dog who was ready to walk the stage with her graduation cap.

This program is full of teachers, like Janelle O’Connell, who really value their students. 

“The students that we get are all brought to us by the Lord,” O’Connell expressed. 

These professors teach the students how to help others, including them in mission work. However, there’s one student in the classroom this past year that didn’t quite look like the others – Greer the dog. 

“We are involved in training a service puppy,” said O’Connell. 

Greer came to HSU in November of 2021 through a nonprofit called ‘Canine Companions,’ so the physical therapy students could train her to become a service dog. 

Emma Dantzler, Physical therapy student, said she and her classmates have worked to train Greer to help others, like they have been taught. 

“As physical therapists, our job is to return people to the fullest function that we can,” Dantzler explained. “So Greer, what she does for her person, is she removes the boundary of the physical illness that they have.”

The dog was in class with the students all-day every day for over a year. 

“She has been there for every part of our PT school journey,” Dantzler explained. 

She has impacted many students’ experiences, including Avery Allen.

“There’s so many emotions going on and she has been there through it all . . . She is really a member of this class,” Allen shared. “She’s going to be able to help somebody function and gain mobility and do all of the things they need to do to be independent.”

Greer has now completed her training and the university decided to honor her in a special way. She was able to walk the stage with the other December PT graduates. 

“If she has had this much of an impact on us and our fellow classmates, I can’t wait to see the impact that she’s going to make on someone who really needs her,” said Allen.

Now, Greer is moving on to professional training in a 6-month program which starts in January. HSU will begin looking for another dog for the program, but Greer will always have a special place in their hearts.