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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Jan 20, 2018

The story of Clay and Charlotte

By Bryce Kelly | Dec 09, 2016

Who doesn’t love a feel-good news story to kick start a weekend – especially this close to Christmas? Well, thanks to a fair-minded home improvement store manager, I have one for you.

Our story begins with United States Air Force veteran, Clay Luthy, of Dyess, Texas. A veteran with three overseas deployments under his belt as a C-130 loadmaster, Luthy has been through quite a bit over his military career, which ended following multiple knee surgeries and one total knee reconstruction that left him unable to bend his left knee totally and meet the physical requirements of the Air Force.

Upon his exit from the armed forces, Luthy adopted a yellow Lab puppy named Charlotte.

“I got Charlotte as a puppy, and she was never supposed to be a service dog,” Luthy told reporters, saying as his companion grew, she started exhibiting common behavior traits of a service dog following his multiple operations. “I found out a couple years ago she was alerting me (when I was having trouble), and I didn’t even know it.”

Now 10 years old, Charlotte works as Luthy’s full-time service dog, helping him with various physical tasks, and assists him in the event he were to trip and fall down. Charlotte also works to help Luthy alleviate anxiety when he needs it.

And while working as a pair was going swimmingly for Luthy and Charlotte, things on the career front for Luthy were not. Following his exit from the Air Force, Luthy said finding employment that gelled with his disability and with his service companion was a real challenge.

“I’m a disabled vet, but I can’t stand to be sitting at home. And instead of a bunch of medications, I have Charlotte,” Luthy said. “I found a prescription for a productive life – she’s my four-legged prescription.”

Following multiple job searches and at the advice of his wife, Luthy eventually replied to an employment opportunity with home improvement store chain, Lowe’s, in Abilene, Texas. According to Luthy, he had a plethora of handyman experience prior to his military career, so a job as a salesman at a hardware and home improvement store like Lowe’s seemed like an obvious fit and something he would enjoy.

“We were interviewing people for his position, and he was one of the applicants,” said Jay Fellers, a human resource manager for Lowe’s. “He showed up for the interview, and he had Charlotte with him.”

According to Luthy, he admits that when he applied to the position, he wanted to make sure Charlotte’s presence wouldn’t be an issue. Fellers, in reply, told Luthy not to worry.

“He told me, ‘oh no absolutely...we’ve got service dogs that work all throughout Lowe’s,” said Luthy.

Sure enough, Luthy got the job and has now been working at Lowe’s for two months. Charlotte shows up with him to work every single day – she even has her own Lowe’s employee vest to make her place on the Lowe’s employee team official.

“Clay in his own merit won the job,” Fellers said. “And we knew he was going to be a great employee. We just got the benefit of getting Charlotte right along with him.”

Two months into the pair’s new job, Luthy says he’s enjoying employment, adding it has really helped lift his spirits and given him hope going into the holiday season. Now, with the approval of store managers, Luthy is in the process of training Lola, another service dog, which he also brings to the store for real-world training. He says his time with Charlotte and his positive experience with Lowe’s has made him hopeful that other veterans like him will begin to see the uplifting, life-applicable benefits of service dogs.

Luthy and Charlotte’s story has now received nationwide attention after customers of the store started posting photos of the pair at work on social media. Luthy allows customers to pet Charlotte when he is at work in order to build customers’ trust in his work partner.

According to Fellers, the store chain isn’t surprised by the positive response from customers over Luthy and Charlotte’s presence. Fellers says Luthy is a bright, hardworking employee, and that Charlotte only brightens the store’s atmosphere.

“Charlotte is not the first or the last service dog that Lowe’s will welcome onto our team,” Fellers says. “And we are proud to have Luthy as an employee. He and Charlotte are the right fit for us.”

Luthy says if his experience with the store has taught him anything, it’s that everyone, no matter their disability, can find a place to make a positive difference as long as people are willing to give them the fair chance to do so.

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