Some of you may recognize Rudy, the friendly Border Collie belonging to Gus and Debbe Nimick. But what some of you may not know is that Rudy is not only a certified emotional support dog, but also a certified service dog.

This distinction is an important one, as service animals are specifically trained to do work or perform tasks for people with physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disabilities. The work or task a service animal does must be directly related to the person’s disability and must be trained and not inherent. Tasks may include pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, alerting a person to a sound, guiding a person who is visually impaired, warning and/or aiding the person prior to an imminent seizure, as well as calming or interrupting a behavior of a person who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In contrast, while emotional support animals may or may not be specifically trained to perform tasks, they are defined as a companion that a medical professional has determined to provide a therapeutic benefit for an individual.

Rudy’s training began when he was just 12 weeks old. Originally, Debbe planned for Rudy to be a therapy/emotional support dog to help with her clients as a child psychologist. However, after some time, Debbe began suffering from pain in her spine, which ultimately led her to seek treatment. The doctor who examined her X-rays was amazed that she was walking at all, and recommended a fusion of her spine. At that point, the Nimicks shifted Rudy’s training in the direction of a service dog, focusing on mobility and agility. Debbe’s doctor advised her that she had only a two percent chance of walking again. Rudy challenged that statistic, motivating Debbe to make the most of her post-operative exercise. “Having him gave me the psychological confidence to get moving. He kept me on my feet, and still does,” Debbe says.

Fortunately, Debbe’s three surgeries were successful, and with Rudy’s help along the way, she regained her ability to walk. However, Rudy’s service dog and mobility training has certainly been put to the test. Among other duties, Rudy is specially trained to help Debbe get up after a fall, serving as a support for her to raise herself off the ground. If Debbe is unable to regain a standing positon, Rudy knows to alert a nearby person or staff member for help. This scenario has happened several times since their move here last year.

For these reasons, it is necessary for Rudy to get regular exercise to keep up his strength. While the new dog run (located on the northwest corner of the Northwest Garden) is a wonderful space for Rudy to run and socialize with other assistance animals, both the grass and enclosed space pose a problem for the Nimicks. For balance purposes, they need to be able to stand on a flat, paved surface in order to throw the ball for Rudy’s exercise; additionally, a larger space is needed for Rudy to maximize his strength training. That said, you will likely see the Nimicks walking and training Rudy off-leash on the sidewalk area near the Northwest Garden, through the Cuban Laurel walkway near the North Garden as part of his daily exercise. Afterward, he will be placed back on his leash.

While Rudy is extremely friendly, this does not detract from his duties as a service dog. He is impeccably trained, remaining by his owners’ side and following through on his commands. If you’d like to learn more about Rudy, join us on Friday, February 16th, at 10:00 a.m. During Harry Hobson’s Café Chat, the Nimicks will give a special presentation with Rudy.