On graduation day, a uniquely qualified blond walked among other Liberty University graduates.
His official name is Drake IV, a service dog committed to his owner, Maureen Lovetro, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Liberty in May.
To Maureen, Drake is like a superhero with fur. She dressed him in his own cap and gown and colored the tips of his ear to match her hair.
Drake has been a constant companion since he came to live with her in her sophomore year. She spent about two years on a waiting list to get a service dog.
While Maureen’s mobility and vision has been limited since birth by cerebral palsy, Drake has been obliging to take off her socks, open doors, and even pay a cashier if need be.
“He is an amazing blessing,” she said. “Sometimes, I like him more than people. We’re good friends.”
When Maureen releases him from his job for a moment, he becomes a magnet for affection. Drake wags his substantial tail and relishes a pat on the head like any other less educated dog.
But, Drake himself is the beneficiary of $50,000 of education.
It is paying off, as he is able to help his owner get around campus, which is a challenge for someone physically unable to walk long distances because of weakness in her legs.
Hers is a condition brought on by a lack of oxygen to her brain at the time of her birth.
She has learned to cope with the limitations and has sometimes found ways to further her education by seeking alternative ways of learning.
For instance, while a lack of focus in her eyes makes it difficult to read, she was able to complete her classes by having others or a computer read to her.
She attended a high school for impaired youngsters in Long Island, N.Y. Her elementary education was provided by her mother, Wendy, who home-schooled her.
Maureen came to Liberty at the urging of her sister because of its Christian mission.
“Christ is a constant,” she said. “You can always depend on Him.”
With her psychology degree, she wants to work with adolescents in crisis.
“I think, because I have struggled, people can identify with me,” she said. “I think it is good to be patient and understanding.”