photo courtesy of Ben Polega
Ben Polega might be a little fish in a big pond, but at least he has a big furry companion at his side.
“I’m planning on bringing a white lab into campus coming soon — coming attraction: Friday!”
Freshman Ben Polega is bringing his service dog Friday to school for the very first time this year. Polega was born with quadriplegia that affects all four limbs.
“But that does not stop me,” Polega said. “I am in general ed classes, and this whole school journey has been amazing.”
Friday helps Polega with all sorts of everyday tasks.
“She helps me navigate, she can pick up my phone, she can pick up almost anything that is non-toxic,” Polega said. “She also can open doors and close doors, get help if I’m having a seizure, and currently I am working on helping her learn soccer. She can nose the ball!”
The support that Friday gives Polega goes both ways.
“We do a thing called you scratch my fur, and I’ll scratch your fur, which basically means we do things for each other.”
The reaction to Friday from the public has been unsurprisingly, positive.
“[There has been] lots of ‘Aww, she’s so cute.’ And lots of ‘Can I pet her?’”
When Friday is at school, however, she is working for Polega and only Polega, which means that students need to resist the urge to pet her. Polega asks students to please ask and talk to him first before approaching Friday and him.
“You can’t pet her, she’s working,” Polega said. “She can only be released by me.”
Polega has had Friday as a service dog for exactly one year today, but there’s still lots of learning to do.
“Last year the trainers came out from Florida and stayed with us for a week. They were really so inspiring, they were amazing,” he said. “By the end of the two weeks we were ready to go out, but we did not test, we’re waiting to test school. So I like to call it puppy boot camp!”
Polega is thankful for Topaz Dogs, a non-profit organization that trains assistance dogs for children and adults with disabilities.
“I couldn’t have done it without [them. Their] support is phenomenal.”
Lastly, Polega wants students to know that Friday is “energetic and she is coming soon to a classroom near you!”