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    Above: Texas and freshman Bridget Koyne take five. Texas, an 8-week-old Doberman that will be assigned as a service dog for a nonverbal child, had his ears cropped to discourage pulling.

    Typically, no dogs are allowed on the campus of Bellarmine University. But as this is finals week, things are a bit different.

    Taking the lead from other colleges that have employed therapy dogs to de-stress students, Bellarmine invited Kia Grace and her Gimme Grace Dog Training to help students start the week off with a quartet of trained and certified service dogs (or, as they’re known this week, “canine exam proctors”) to give crammers a little bit of home and lower their stress—a widely acknowledged benefit of spending time with animals.

    Albus is happy to meet freshman Cole Hellyer…and vice versa.

    Texas, Albus, Bella and Karma—four dogs of varying shapes and sizes—both entertained and endured the cuddles and caresses of delighted students in Frazier Hall Monday. However, the canines have serious jobs: All Gimme Grace dogs are trained to aid individuals with issues such as hearing loss, balance problems, cerebral palsy, diabetes, seizures and life-threatening allergies. All dogs are trained to open doors and retrieve dropped items, and even call 911 using a special canine device that alerts emergency personnel that the caller may not be human and so unable to speak.

    Freshman Spencer Cottrell and Texas.

    While 150 students initially signed up in advance for 15-minute time slots throughout the day, 240 eventually came out to spend time with man’s best friend.

    When invited, Karma—a bossie (border collie-Australian sheepdog mix)—will jump into the arms of a waiting human, such as those of freshman Jessica Wilson.

    This isn’t the first time the Gimme Grace pack has been to college. “All of our service dogs in training are at universities,” Grace explains. Students at University of Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University train the dogs from eight weeks before the animals graduate at 18 months.

    Still, the dogs seemed to enjoy some play along with their work. “They’re perfectly happy to play along with anybody who has food and love,” Grace says.

    Great Dane Bella doesn’t mind a pat on the head.

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    Photos: Eve Lee

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