One Person, Three Dogs and Four Degrees

Message from the President

Published in: Update - Issue 3 - 2016 »   
Jennifer and golden retriever Leader Dog Rudy stand next to each other, Rudy in harness, in front of a blue backdrop. The photo is faded

Jennifer and LD Rudy

“When I graduated from Central Michigan University with my undergraduate degree in political science, geology and anthropology…I guess I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up,” laughs LDB Client Jennifer Tatomir. “My first Leader Dog, Rudy, was by my side.”

Like many Leader Dog clients, Jennifer received her first Leader Dog before heading off to college, and she was glad she did. “I don’t know how I would have made it through my undergrad or graduate school without a Leader Dog. They are emotional support, friendship and wonderful ice breakers that make professionals and students both more comfortable being around me,” explains Jennifer. She found that many people hadn’t spent much time around someone with a disability and didn’t talk with her out of fear of saying the wrong thing. “But having the dog gives people something to talk about when they approach you. It puts them at ease,” says Jennifer.

Jennifer’s second and third Leader Dogs, Blazer and Zeke respectively, were with her as she finished three masters degrees in Southeast Asian studies, library science and social work. One thing Jennifer appreciated during school was that her dogs provided a great deal of comic relief. Jennifer had one professor for several classes who had the habit of repeating her stories multiple times. The professor would preface the story by telling the students to stop her if she had told it before. “One time, there was dead silence because no one wanted to be the one to tell her we’d heard the story many times,” says Jennifer. “Then all the sudden from under the table you hear Blazer let out the loudest snore he’d ever given. Then the teacher said, ‘If I put the dog to sleep, then I guess he’s heard this one too many times.’”

Jennifer and golden retriever Leader Dog Zeke sit next to each other for their formal Leader Dog class photo. Zeke is in harness and Jennifer is wearing a gray suit

Jennifer and LD Zeke

Jennifer’s advice to someone contemplating getting a Leader Dog before college is to think seriously about if a dog will fit into the lifestyle you want to live. A lot of love and care is involved because you’re responsible for the emotional and physical well-being of another living being. “However, if you’re willing to put the commitment in, the rewards are so far beyond the words that I have to describe them. I’d need several books just to express what my Leader Dogs have meant to me,” says Jennifer. Currently, Jennifer is working on an MBA. She also plays violin, enjoys creative writing and volunteers when possible with local veterans’ organizations.