The dog's name is Dynamite.
The name of the young woman at the other end of his leash is Logan Bright.
Perhaps her name ought to be Dynamo.
After transferring to the University of Kentucky from Wittenberg University in Ohio in 2009, Bright, now a junior majoring in early education, started a UK chapter of a service-dog training organization called 4 Paws for Ability. The dogs, who learn commands and how to act in certain situations from UK student trainers, are eventually placed with people who have various assistance needs, including those with hearing problems, autism and mobility issues.
As if heading up a dog-training program while taking a full load of classes weren't enough, the 21-year-old Bright also writes children's books. The first book in her Ruby the Rabbit series, called Ruby the Rabbit Goes Exploring, was published in the fall. Bright had her first signing at a Cincinnati Barnes & Noble book store in November.
Last year, Bright brought an annual drive called Mountains of Mittens, in which winter clothing items are collected for people in need, to her sorority, Kappa Delta. The sorority donates items it collects to The Nest, a local non-profit social services agency. Bright started Mountains of Mittens when she was in the eighth grade back home in Mason, Ohio. For several summers, she operated a children's day camp program out of the basement of her Ohio home, the camp offering theme-based activities geared toward a particular age group each day.
Bright loves dogs and children, and community service is a big part of her life, she said on a late fall day as she and Dynamite, one of the service dogs in training, made a stop at the UK Student Center.
"He went to anthropology today," she said, softly rubbing the fur of the gentle black Labrador retriever. Socializing is an important component of the training program, so Dynamite, like the other dogs, goes to classes, restaurants, even the movies, she said.
Bright became familiar with 4 Paws for Ability, a Xenia, Ohio-based organization, while a freshman at Wittenberg.
"I wanted to bring it to UK," she said.
The dogs come to UK from Ohio after having learned basic commands from other trainers, most often prison inmates. The dogs also have been house-trained and have learned not to bark by the time they get to UK students, who take the training to a different level, teaching the dogs things such as how to touch the leg of a child who is having a panic attack to calm down the child. The UK student trainers have monthly meetings in which they learn how to teach the dogs to perform certain tasks. 4 Paws for Ability pays for the dogs' food, treats, crates and veterinary bills, Bright said.
After several months with the UK students, the dogs go back to Ohio to be assessed. A dog that is ready to be placed with a new owner undergoes two more weeks of training with that person. A dog that is not ready for permanent placement participates in refresher courses.
"Dynamite will probably be a mobility dog," Bright said. That means Dynamite will be helping to open doors and assisting a person in dressing and undressing, among other things.
Bright is not one of Dynamite's regular trainers. She wasn't allowed to have a dog living with her in the sorority house. But she'll be living in an apartment beginning in January, and plans on getting a dog to train then.
She's already trained one service dog — Crunch. Bright cried when she had to part with him last summer, she said.
Bright said she hopes the number of dogs assigned to the UK chapter of 4 Paws for Ability will increase from eight in the fall semester to 12 in the coming spring semester.
"I'm just in love with dogs. They're so much fun," she said. She has a dog of her own, a mutt named Cocoa, who lives with her family in Ohio.
Bright said she would like to do a series of books on different types of service dogs.
She said she's enjoyed writing the Ruby the Rabbit series, rhyming books for preschoolers through third-graders. Some of the six unpublished books in the series are Ruby the Rabbit and Friends, Ruby the Rabbit Goes to the Beach and Ruby the Rabbit Goes to School. Each of the books contains one or more lessons on things such as water safety and identifying shapes and colors. Bright's publisher is waiting to see how the first book does before publishing the others, she said.
Since her first book was published, Bright has been in demand as a public speaker. She gives talks at elementary schools and civic club meetings about writing and publishing children's books.
Helping and teaching others runs in Bright's family, and her parents, both of whom have had careers in education, have inspired her to take a similar path in life. Bright's father, Kevin Bright, is superintendent of Mason city schools; her mother, Nancy, is a former kindergarten and elementary teacher.
"I saw their passion," Logan Bright said. "I want a job where I can say I love what I do."