By Linda Cole
Colleges and universities often bestow honorary degrees to individuals for outstanding contributions or distinction. Sometimes it’s a four legged individual that impresses committee members. Ellis, Samson, Zeeke and Elvis are dogs who received honorary degrees for their contributions to their humans, and Dylan received a posthumous award for his owner.
Amanda Davis is legally blind, but having a disability didn’t stop her from realizing her dream of getting a law degree. While she was getting her undergraduate degree at the University of Tampa, she was paired with a black Lab named Ellis after she applied for a guide dog from the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ. Davis was accepted into the New York Law School to continue her education, and Ellis was by her side the entire time. The school made room in the classrooms and gave Ellis time for breaks when they were needed. When Davis and Ellis crossed the stage on graduation day in 2012, she received her law degree and Ellis was given an honorary degree for his outstanding work as a service dog.
In 2011, a 2 year old yellow Lab named Samson graduated from and received an honorary degree from Oklahoma University. He entered the hallowed halls of higher education as an eight week old pup. Occupational therapist and faculty member in the Rehabilitative Services Department, Dr. Mary Isaacson, would spend the next two years training Samson as a service dog. Part of his training included learning how to hold open doors, retrieve objects on the floor, and turn lights on and off. Samson completed his education, donned his cap and gown, and graduated as a certified service dog ready to assist someone living with a disability in Oklahoma. When Samson received his honorary degree, he sat and shook the Dean’s hand, like any other graduate. The 300 other graduates were thrilled to share their special day with a dog they knew and loved.