Tilly sits with a Camp Sunshine camper. (File/FOX Carolina)
CLEMSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -
A yellow lab from Florida was training to become a service dog for people with disabilities until trainers learned she had a physical disability herself.
That meant she couldn't continue with her training program. Instead, she's found a new calling in the Upstate at Clemson University, where she's still able to offer help for humans with disabilities.
Like most young pups, 14-month-old Tilly is eager to meet everyone and can't keep herself from lending a helping paw.
"She loves to carry things, can't walk very far without picking something up in her mouth," said Leslie Conrad, director of Clemson's Outdoor Lab. "She's a little mischievous, she'll carry anything - might not be the right thing - but we're working on that. She really wants to please."
But she's a little different than most dogs, she's been diagnosed with hip Dysplasia, a disorder that can cause crippling hip discomfort in dogs. Unfortunately, that ended her career as a guide dog.
"The people that helped raise her and train her felt like she was the perfect dog to work with people with disabilities, and so they were very disappointed she couldn't go into that work so they were exploring other opportunities," Conrad said.
And that's how she landed at the Clemson University Outdoor Lab, serving as a mascot for activities like Camp Sunshine, a weekend respite camp for young adults with disabilities.
"Most of our campers have some sort of developmental disability. Some also have physical disabilities; they might be in a wheelchair," Conrad said.
At the lab, Tilly can use her talents to serve the campers.
"She loves people, so she's willing to go with any of our campers, which will be neat for them to get to go on a walk or do an activity," Conrad said."
And many campers are animal lovers.
"I get to play with them and walk them, and play with them and hold them," said camper Carly Cantrell.
Even on her first weekend, Tilly fit right in.
"I like her at Camp Sunshine, she's cool and is a good dog," said camper Kathleen Lee.
Tilly will get her second weekend at Camp Sunshine with more campers the weekend of Jan. 18.
Copyright 2012 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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