How many dogs do you know have attended college and received an award?
Such is the story of Brutus, the 14-year-old family mutt adopted from a California shelter and trained in his later years as a service dog for his owner, Jasmine Steinwand.
Steinwand was having a difficult time managing her food allergies during her senior year at Centenary University in Hackettstown, NJ. She pressed Brutus into service to help her complete her studies.
He was trained to be receptive to any sort of anaphylactic shock, and he can retrieve my EpiPen. He came to school with me every day and during the lectures, he would just sit on the floor and fall asleep.
Professor Krassi Lazarova, chairwoman of the university’s science department, hosted the duo in one of her physics classes.
Said Prof Lazarova:
He senses Jasmine’s needs.
The more amazing thing that I didn’t anticipate was the calming effect he had on all of the other students. Whenever we would take tests or quizzes, he would start walking around the room and checking on people, and whoever seemed to be the most stressed would be the one he would sit next to.
It didn’t start out that way. It started that Brutus had to be with Jasmine at all times. But then all of a sudden, Brutus had to be with every student at all times.
“He ended up becoming an iconic part of the campus,” Steinwand said. “People knew his name, even if they didn’t know me.”
At the conclusion of classes, the professor handed out 14 achievement awards during an online ceremony. Steinwand received a Senior Merit award and Brutus received a “Special Science Helper” award.
“It was a surprise to me. I was lucky enough to win an award myself, and then he won an award,” Steinwand said. “It was pretty heartwarming.”
“He is an incredible animal and we were so lucky to have him,” Prof Lazarova said.
Steinwand, who received a degree in biology with a concentration of pre-veterinary studies and a minor in chemistry, will continue her studies at NYU where she has been accepted into an accelerated RN program.
As Steinwand now has better control of her allergies, the plan is for Brutus to stay home to enjoy a well-deserved rest.