Service dog to be honored at CMU

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- A Colorado Mesa University student says her service dog has really helped her succeed in school as she now looks towards graduation in May.

Jessie Parkhurst, a senior at CMU, hopes the school can also recognize her pup in some academic way. The university says they can do something better.

"I’m getting a degree for doing all this stuff. I feel like she should get something because she’s doing all of this and more,” said Jessie Parkhurst, a senior at CMU studying criminal justice.

Going to college for the first time can be nerve-racking, especially when you already suffer from panic attacks like Jessie.

"She's made it significantly easier for me to function,” said Parkhurst.

That's where Penny comes in. She’s a Labrador and Basset Hound mix.

Jessie says she rescued her from a shelter on the Front Range a month before she moved to Grand Junction. With help from a professional trainer, she started her service dog training immediately.

"One of the big things with panic attacks is putting pressure on the chest…so she will actually stand on my chest and put that weight on me,” said Parkhurst.

“She can pull me out of rooms if she feels I’m too anxious, she can grab my attention back to her if I can’t leave the room,” said Parkhurst.

Jessie says her panic attacks impacted her life growing up, mostly during high school.

"I would have one or two a day so in high school, I pretty much didn't go to any classes because I just couldn't. And so, now, I can go to every single class here. I think I’ve missed three total in the three years I’ve been here,” said Parkhurst.

After only a month of training, Penny was ready to go. The two moved across the state to Grand Junction.

"Penny and Jessie have become kind of fixtures on campus, it's a very special relationship they have,” said David Ludlam, Colorado Mesa University.

The university says they have something special up their sleeve to honor Penny.

"We do have a very special surprise in store for both of them through the foundation. It was an idea of President Foster, which at this time, is a surprise. But we are excited about it,” said Ludlam.

Jessie says once Penny gets out of her service vest, she’s a completely different dog. Full of energy and running around. Once that vest goes back on, it’s all business.

The special surprise for Jessie and Penny will be around commencement time in May.

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