For service dog Hugo, the job doesn’t end when the final school bell rings. As watchdog and best friend to 17-year-old Tyler Gerdts, Hugo must accompany him wherever he goes, and cross-county is no exception.
While Hugo’s times may not count for the team, he has still made it into the record books as the first service dog to run cross-country. The German Shepherd is an autism service dog who underwent extensive training at Highland Canine Training in Harmony, North Carolina. He is prepared to track down Tyler in case of an emergency, sniff natural gases in the air, and of course, run cross-country.
Of course, since Hugo is the first service dog with permission to run cross-country, the Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) had to create a unique set of rules for the running pair. For instance, all other racers have to start before Tyler and Hugo do; Tyler’s coach likes to give the other races about 40 meters before he sends the two running.
While Tyler may not be the first athlete with a disability to run cross-country, his family hopes that he and Hugo have paved the way for service dog-human duos to take the track.
“We hope that others will know that it’s an option to run with their service dogs and won’t opt out of things because they think the challenge of getting the accommodation is too overwhelming,” said Gerdts. “We also hope that other kids with disabilities, whether they have a service dog or not, will give cross country a try. It’s a very rewarding sport.”
Featured image via Runner’s World
H/T Runner’s World