Chris Wallace and his service dog Buckshot are practically inseparable on campus. (Niko LaBarbera)
Service dogs have been used by disabled Americans for a long time. They may be seen in grocery stores, hospitals, restaurants and coffee shops. Saddleback College is no exception.
The Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) has made service dogs possible for some of Saddleback’s students.
This service has helped many veterans who are enrolled, but the process doesn’t start with the DSPS.
Finding an organization to provide a service dog can be difficult, but for Chris Wallace, a veteran here at Saddleback, it was an organization called Sherri’s Project that introduced him to his dog, Buck-Shot.
Once Wallace completed his disability paperwork through the military, Sherri’s Project connected him with Buck-Shot and their training began.
Getting approval from the DSPS is the next step to get permission to bring the service dog on campus and into classrooms.
“DSPS was very helpful,” said Wallace, “and they made it very easy to get it done.”
Even with the DSPS approval, it is ultimately up to each instructor or professor to allow the dog into class.
In order to do this, each person with a service dog must talk to the class professor or instructor on the first day, without the dog present, to make sure the dog’s presence is OK.
“It has worked out very well so far,” Wallace said.
These dogs are very well-trained and are hardly noticeable. The service dogs mostly stay right by their owner, but occasionally they will quietly wander around the classroom.
“I wish sometimes that all my students were as well-behaved as the dogs,” history professor Beverly Wirtz said.
Allowing this service at Saddleback makes it possible for some veterans to enroll in on-campus classes, but it is more than that. It gives them hope.
Wallace was in the Marine Corps for five years from 2008-2013. He deployed twice with the 1st Combat Engineering Battalion to Afghanistan, and has since been battling PTSD. Buck-Shot helps Wallace get through this, among other things.
Wallace also lost his wife and daughter in a car accident.
“My daughter wanted a dog and she wanted to name him Buck-Shot, so it just seemed right to name my service dog, Buck-Shot,” Chris said. “He gives me a reason to do better.”
Service dogs bring a whole new meaning to the phrase man’s best friend.