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Nerf the dog helps University of Tampa student achieve her college dreams

Leigh Dittman is nursing major at Univ. of Tampa
Nerf the service dog with Leigh Dittman
Posted at 3:09 AM, Feb 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-05 08:17:07-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Nerf makes sure Leigh Dittman is never late for class at the University of Tampa.

“He’s considered a pull dog,” says Dittman. “So he has strap on the back of his harness that I can grab onto, and he’ll actually pull me and my wheelchair, and we’ll get a quicker pace.”

The UT freshman suffers from brittle bone disease. It makes her prone to fractures and has kept her in the hospital for many of her 18 years.

All Leigh wanted since she was 7 years old was pay back all the love and support she received and become a nurse herself. 

So when she wanted to study nursing at the university, she knew she would need help.

Enter Nerf, a two-year-old Golden-Lab mix from Canine Companions for Independence. The non-profit organization matches specifically trained dogs with owners with particular needs.

“He’s also a retrieve dog,” says Dittman. “So if I drop my keys, pencil, water bottle, he’ll pick them up for me.”

Nerf understands some 40 commands helping Leigh navigate busy college life. He is doing a tremendous job so far. She is happy and injury-free at school and has a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

To learn more about Canine Companions for Independence: