Service Dog Receives College Degree on Behalf of Deceased Owner

More than 2,000 people — and one dog — graduated from Idaho State University this week. Cletus, a service dog, walked the stage at commencement to accept a posthumous degree on behalf of his late owner, Josh Kelly, who passed away in February, reports NPG, a local news affiliate in Idaho.

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Kelly, who died at the age of 38 of complications from epilepsy, was a part-time student at ISU for several years and was working to complete a Bachelor of Science degree. To honor his hard work, Josh's father, Terrell Kelly, and loyal companion, Cletus, stood in his stead at the May 10 graduation ceremony and accepted his diploma. “Josh worked for years trying to earn this degree and he was in his last semester,” Terrell said in an interview posted on the Idaho State University website. “Cletus went to all those classes, too, so he probably deserves half that degree.”

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The black-and-white-spotted pit bull accompanied the geosciences major to campus during the week. The pair would walk almost two miles, rain or shine, to catch a bus together from Josh's hometown of Idaho Falls to Pocatello. Sometimes on these treks, Josh would succumb to a grand mal seizure and Cletus would dutifully perform his service responsibilities by sticking by his owner's side, drawing attention to the situation, and barking to get help. “His education was extremely important to him. He became my hero,” Terrell said. “I thought it was really amazing how committed he was to his education despite everything he faced.”

When Terrell and Cletus walked across the stage, the crowd cheered so loud the announcer's words were drowned out. Then, Terrell was handed his son’s diploma. He held it high in the air, looked up, and said, "This is for Josh."

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