Helping Hands Honored

An often under-recognized helping hand (or should that be “helpful paw”?) was given a thoughtful nod by members of the Eau Claire community. On July 25, a bronze service dog statue was dedicated at UW-Eau Claire’s recently constructed Centennial Hall.

The 150-pound life-sized Labrador retriever, complete with a harness, stands in recognition of Seeing Eye Dogs and other assistance canines near the Student Success Center, which includes the Services for Students with Disabilities office.

In addition to honoring the service animals, the statue’s name, “Juno,” is significant for those who raise and train such animals: The name describes an owner’s first experience walking with his or her companion.

For former UWEC senior psychologist and project leader Katherine Schneider, the statue is a celebration of 41 years of partnership with service dogs. She said people and pups of all ages flocked to the noon gathering to pet the regal-looking statue and read its Braille inscriptions.

“Interdependence was present all the way along,” Schneider said. “From my finding willing partners to help fund the sculpture to various offices on the campus working together to get the statue placed and the dedication event publicized and carried out.”

Schneider said Chancellor James Schmidt, along with “a former student partnered with a mobility service dog” shared words on subjects like the relationship between dog and owner and respect for the disabled to a crowd of over 150, including seven service dogs ranging from pups in training to to Schneider’s own retired guide dog.

The sculpture, cast and designed in Yonkers, N.Y., was made possible by donations on behalf of Dr. Schneider, the L.E. Phillips Family Foundation, the Presto Foundation, and fellow emerita professors Dr. Sally Web and Dr. Vicki Lord Larson.

In addition to publishing novels on the subject of living with disability for both children and adults, Schneider maintains an active blog on which she welcomes the aging, disabled, and service dog users.

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