Dee Duren, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- Most of the OU-Tulsa graduates who cross the stage Tuesday night will be doing so on two legs, but not all. Graduating with more than 300 students will be a 2-year-old yellow Lab named Samson.
He'll be suited up in cap and gown as he receives his honorary degree.
Samson is service dog who has been training with Dr. Mary Isaacson, an occupational therapist and faculty member in the Rehabilitative Services Department at the Schusterman campus. He is completing his two-year training program with Therapetics and will soon enter the working world assisting a person with physical disabilities.
"The students asked that he be part of the graduation," Dr. Isaacson said. "He's been here for two of their three years in the occupational therapy program, so he'll be there to join the celebration."
Isaacson started working with Samson when he was just eight weeks old. It was a natural fit for him to attend classes with her as he mastered skills like holding doors open, turning lights off and on and picking things up off the floor.
"People across the campus know Samson," she said. "I can't walk down the hall that people don't say hello."
A dog lover, Isaacson decided to volunteer with Therapetics after seeing the difference service dogs make in lives of some of her rehab clients. Training the dog has been a learning experience for her and her OT students. Some have started volunteering with Therapetics themselves.
On Tuesday night, Samson will cross the stage at TU's Reynolds Center, shake the Dean's hand and receive his honorary "dog-torate." Then it's on to his assignment. All Isaacson knows is that he'll be helping someone in Oklahoma.
"It's going to be hard," she said of parting with the Labrador Retriever.
"I tell myself, 'He's going to make a difference; he's got a bigger purpose in life,'" she said. "Hopefully that will ease some of the pain."