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Professor David Karn Begins Life Unleashed With Assistance Dog

David Karn and Duchess

David Karn and Duchess at Canine Companions for Independence's Northeast Training Center. CCI is the largest nonprofit provider of assistance dogs in the United States.

David Karn, C'97, an accounting lecturer in the Richard J. Bolte School of Business, will have an extra special teaching assistant when he comes to campus to teach his classes on November 13. Karn, who has lupus, will be accompanied by his assistance dog Duchess.

duchess.jpgKarn spent the past two weeks at the Northeast Training Center of Canine Companions for Independence® in New York learning about how to effectively handle an assistance dog.  Several days ago he was matched with Duchess, a two-year-old mixed Labrador and golden retriever, who has been in training for her entire life to learn 40 commands to assist Karn with daily tasks to increase his independence and reduce his reliance on other people. When the two graduated from the program on November 9, along with 12 other graduation teams, Karn gave the graduation address.

"It's up to us to go out and have our dogs do the job they love of helping us to live life more independently. Let's live life unleashed!" exclaimed Karn in a speech in which he recounted his five-year journey of misdiagnosis that ended with an answer and a decision to live the "best life" he can.

duchess2.jpg"I can't wait to take Duchess to work with me when I teach class at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland," Karn said. "She's going to make a great teacher's assistant."

As Karn and Duchess walk across campus, they are likely to attract attention. Please remember that Duchess is a working dog, and there are rules around interaction with her. Here are tips to follow when you encounter Duchess or another assistance dog:

  • Don't touch an assistance dog without asking permission first. Petting Duchess is a distraction and may prevent her from tending to her human partner. Be sensitive to the fact that the dog is working and may be in the middle of a command or direction from its human partner. Most dogs need to be told to be released from work mode to interact with someone.
  • Don't feed the dog. Food is the ultimate distraction to the working dog.
  • Speak to the human partner, not the assistance dog. Most human partners enjoy talking about their assistance dog if they have the time. 
  • Always approach an assistance dog calmly and speak to their human partner before touching or addressing the dog.