Faithful Pit Bull Service Dog Accepts Diploma For Deceased Owner At Graduation Ceremony

A bittersweet story for graduation season.

A loyal service dog walked the stage to receive a college diploma on behalf of his deceased master.

Joshua Kelly, a geology major at Idaho State University, tragically died in February in his final semester as he was wrapping up his Bachelor of Science degree.

Kelly suffered from epilepsy, and his faithful companion Cletus was trained as a seizure alert service dog. The devoted pit bull would start barking when his master suffered grand mal seizures until help arrived. “Cletus, a black pit bull, accompanied Josh on weekdays when the geosciences major walked from his home to catch the bus at 6:30 a.m. from Idaho Falls to the ISU Pocatello campus. They commuted to and attended class together for years at ISU.”

Cletus was accompanied by Joshua’s father Terrell to receive the diploma at the graduation ceremony in Pocatello. Terrell admitted that Cletus changed his perception of pit bulls. “I’ll be honest. 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.” Terrell added that “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.”

Upon accepting the degree at the commencement ceremony, Terrell pointed above and quietly said, “this is for Josh.”

Said Josh’s mom Lynne about her son’s posthumous diploma, “I think it is wonderful that the University is granting him a degree. During that last semester he was having a difficult time with his memory because of the seizures, which made it especially hard for math classes. He had brain surgery, nerve stimulations, and he was on medications, but nothing stopped the seizures. He continued to a have a grand mal every month, and would end up missing a couple of days of classes after each one.”

The Geoscience Department kitchen has been named after Joshua Kelly while the undergraduate study room is now known as Cletus’s Corner.

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