Buies Creek, N.C.-She may not be able to rattle off the elements of the Periodic Table or solve complex mathematical problems, but that doesn't stop, Cadence, a chocolate Labrador retriever from attending Campbell University classes every day. Cadence's owner, Campbell student Katharine "Kate" Bruce, suffers from seizures resulting from an injury she sustained in the line of duty while serving in the United States Army Special Operations. Cadence has been trained to save Bruce's life.
Known as a service dog, Cadence has already had a few opportunities to put her training into practice. Last spring, Bruce had a seizure on the third floor of the Taylor Hall of Religion. Cadence rolled Bruce over on her side so she that she wouldn't aspirate and stayed with her until paramedics arrived. Cadence is also trained to move objects so that Bruce doesn't hit her head and to find adult help when she goes into a seizure. She carries Bruce's medical information such as insurance card, contact numbers and a description of her illness at all times.
"She's pretty amazing," Bruce said. "Cadence is such a cool dog. I get to take her everywhere with me."
Bruce was recommended for Cadence after receiving a medical discharge from the Army. As a Special Operations Civil Affairs Specialist, Bruce's unit moved civilians off the battlefield, set up refugee camps with the Red Cross and the United Nations, distributed humanitarian aid and built hospitals and schools.
"We were like the Peace Corps with guns," Bruce said. "We went into countries where people had been devastated by war or hardship, or needed to be assessed as an area of operation, and we studied the people and their culture, government, resources, infrastructure, agriculture and terrain to report back to the commander. We even taught people how to farm. Our goal was to circumvent terrorism in these areas by providing for the basic needs of the people. Our motto was to win over their hearts and minds."
After her traumatic injury, seizures and brain impairment made living alone potentially dangerous for Bruce, but she didn't receive Cadence until two years after her discharge in 2007.
"Because it takes so long to train these dogs, and the organizations who train them are funded by donation only, there are often long waiting lists. I was so happy when Cadence finally arrived," Bruce said.
Despite her hardships, Bruce has never regretted serving her country.
"My small sacrifice isn't even enough compared to what my country has given me and my family, and the sacrifices others have made for all of us," she said. I joined the army because I wanted it to take me to places where people were in need, and if you could only see how people live some places. I would gladly give my arm, leg, or life to ease their suffering. We are truly blessed to live in our country under the protections and services of our government and Constitution."
Bruce is pursuing an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and International Relations. She would like to go on to earn a MD/Ph.D. in medical anthropology, specializing in global disease and molecular physiology. With Cadence's help, she is finishing her second year at Campbell. Bruce also attended Central Michigan University and Arizona State University, where she studied with renowned anthropologist the late Dr. Leonard Lieberman, who is known for his studies on race.
"I think I cope pretty well," Bruce said of her condition. "I'm determined I'm not going to let it affect my life too much. I will not define myself by illness or limitations, so I smile every day. I wake up every morning and I move on. I don't think about the seizures until they happen, and when they do, I laugh about it."
Photo Copy: Kate Bruce and Cadence