Idaho service dog walks in place of owner at graduation

Cletus the service dog
Cletus the service dog

POCATELLO, ID. (KIDK/CNN) — Commencement is always a special time. But for one family, Idaho State University’s graduation ceremony was especially meaningful.

Their son was not there to receive the degree he worked so hard for. Instead, his faithful service dog walked in his place.

Over 2,000 graduates were celebrating their hard work of years, energy and sacrifice.

For them it’s the sense of pride, an achievement.

But between all the feet there’s some paws that definitely stand out.

Cletus, a black pit bull, would have been at graduation anyway this year.

The reporter asked why did he have a pit bull as a service dog, especially with the reputation they have.

“I’ll be honest,” said Joshua Kelly’s father, Terrell. “I was one of them that was giving (pit bulls) a bad rep until I met Cletus. And he allows our little grandchildren to climb on him, pull his ears, pull his tail. He’s just great.”

But the person Cletus is missing is who he was trained to help.

“Josh had epilepsy,” his father said. “This was Josh’s last semester. He was taking his final two classes when he ended up in intensive care in February.”

Joshua Kelly passed away Feb. 13.

Terrell said EMS crews in Idaho Falls found Josh on the side of the road or on someone’s lawn numerous times with Cletus standing over him.

He said the pair would get on the bus at 6:30 from Idaho Falls to ISU, which meant a two-mile walk both ways. But it was worth it.

“This institution has been great for our son, and the geology department and the geosciences became Joshua’s second family,” said Terrell.

Terrell says while Josh may be gone physically, “He’ll be here. He’s here.”

And then the big moment came.

Man and dog’s walk across the stage was emotional. It was hard to hear the announcer explain why Cletus was on the stage.

“This is for Josh,” Terrell said quietly as he took the diploma folder.

Josh received his bachelor of science in geology posthumously.

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