How one Friendship can Change a Life

Service dog accompanies freshman in daily routine


Has anyone else noticed a new furry friend around Blue Valley? That’s because there’s a service dog amongst the many students in the halls.

Freshman Maddox Truitt has been diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which means that his body can’t rebuild muscles that have been broken down. Because of this, Truitt will get weaker and weaker and won’t be able to do certain things, like write or pick up his pencil.

Since the need of a service dog would be needed in a very short time, the Truitt family decided to adopt July, a chocolate lab.

In order to adopt July, “[they] had to fill out an application and [they] had to get accepted,” Truitt said.

The family adopted July in 2014 when Truitt was in fifth grade, and the pair have become immensely closer since they met four years ago. July was only 15 months old when adopted by the Truitt family.

“She’s from a place called ‘Cares’ in Concordia, Kansas,” Nancy, Truitt’s mother, said. “We went out there for a week and a half to go to what Truitt calls dog school, and we got trained on the commands and how to work with July.”

July began her journey as a service dog by being donated to Cares. She then began training in the Hutchinson, Kansas prison. July also needed to be placed in puppy training in Nashville, where she was then sent back to Cares to be ‘customized.’ This means that July was trained to care for Truitt’s special needs.

The directors at Cares knew that July was special from the very beginning. She had shown potential in puppy training that her siblings did not. In Concordia, July was then taught specific commands and rules to follow for Truitt’s needs. Once Truitt and July were matched, it took some time before they really bonded.

“We got her in October, [but Truitt and July] didn’t really connect until June,” Nancy said. “They went to a camp together [with] Truitt’s counselor, and that’s when [July] finally figured out that Truitt was her person.”

After the bonding process, the pair became inseparable.

“She helps me open up doors, [and] she can pick things up,” Truitt said.

One of July’s most important jobs is comforting Truitt and knowing when he’s upset. She comforts him by laying with him and letting him pet her until he has calmed down. Also, she can open doors and press the handicap button to assist Truitt’s needs at any given time.

Truitt also said July does the same things at school that she does at home, although at home she gets to play her favorite game — fetch.

In the past when she’s been at school with him, Nancy said the other students haven’t always been as respectful toward July as she is to them.

“We had such a hard time when Truitt was in elementary school,” Nancy said. “The preschoolers and the kindergarteners would chase [July] down the sidewalk and try to pull her tail.”

Students should respect that July is working and should not be bothered. If a student has questions about July or how they should act around her, they should ask Truitt.

“If you want to pet the dog, she needs to be in a down position, either sitting or laying down,” Nancy said. “Then you need to ask Maddox if it’s OK to pet her, and if he says yes, then you can pet her, but if he says no, which he does every once in a while, then you’re supposed to respect that and not pet her.”

July has had a huge impact on Truitt’s life, and not just with picking up a pencil or opening doors for him. She’s more than just a dog who helps him —  she’s a friend who has changed his life for the better.

“Once he got July, he’s now the kid with the dog instead of being the kid in the wheelchair.” Nancy said. “[Now] he’s socially seen in a different way.