There were more than 6,800 students graduating this weekend from Florida State University. However, one of the students is a bit unique as far as graduates go. This graduate is Brian Wimberly’s service dog, Bella, and she has been with Wimberly every step of the way through his college experience. The school though that it was only right that they honor her at graduation as well.
Wimberly said, “She didn’t only understand that she was my service dog she was everybody’s service dog in that class.”
Wimberly is adding FSU graduate to his resume, along with being a US Navy veteran. Bella has been with him since he was diagnosed with PTSD, and Wimberly knows that she is far more than just a best friend to him. She has a special gift that really does help him do something that so many of us find relatively easy; making it through a single, 24-hour period.
“Soldiers that go fight in combat and come back, they don’t ask for PTSD,” said Wimberly. “But dogs like Bella, they save lives every day. I truly believe in my heart that Bella has saved my life.”
Veteran’s Affairs says that about 20 US military vets take their own lives each day. In a lot of these cases, when people have intervened and a service or therapy dog has been brought in, many of these suicide attempts are averted. Wimberly admits that if it wasn’t for Bella and what she does, he might be a part of that very scary statistic, himself.
The FSU Veteran’s Center wanted to do something special to honor Bella, and everything that she’s done to help Wimberly complete his goal of becoming a college graduate. Bella is the first dog who has been awarded a special leash and patch as a national beacon of veteran support and success.
Director of the FSU Veteran’s Center, Billy Francis said, “A commitment a devotion that is worthy of honor and that’s what we’re doing here today so will Bella please come to the stage. We thought it was just fitting that we think about a special way to honor her and welcome her to the family also.”
After a lot of hard work and many years of study, Wimberly is finally a graduate from FSU with a masters in social work. And just like it’s been since he started his journey, Bella will be there right by his side every step of the way. He’ll begin working with the TMH Animal Therapy Program, where he will be developing new programs which take therapy dogs into schools to assist children.
“Without her there’s no doubt that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish this task,” said Wimberly.