Michelle Kephart & Rumba


image1If you ever need to show someone what a real service dog can do (or why you can give up these pups you are raising), look no further than the amazing You Tube video of Rumba the Service Dog. CCI Grad Michelle Kephart said she put the video together in part to address the issue of fake service dogs, and show people what service dogs really do. In a decade of raising CCI pups, this is one of the best videos I’ve seen of the many ways our pups can provide assistance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3z4mmr1bWk

Michelle had grown up with labs and loved animals. She was planning to become a veterinarian when, in her senior year at CU Boulder, she decided that wasn’t the right path. She worked for a while as a veterinary technician, then realized that nursing needed many of the same skills. “So I went to nursing school, and it was while I was in nursing school that I had my accident.”

Michelle and her now husband, Devon Murphy, cemented their relationship in Craig Hospital. They had initially met through a mutual friend a few weeks before her accident, and then she had joined them on a road trip. It was on that trip that Michelle fell from a tree. “He had just graduated and didn’t have any commitments for a few months, so he just came to the hospital and hung out as a friend with me. That was really where we got to know each other.”

While at Craig Hospital for rehabilitation, Michelle met long-time puppy raiser Jeni Exley. “Jeni had Falzone at the time, and I learned all about CCI from her.” CCI requires a year post-injury before an application can be submitted for a service dog. Michelle laughed. “I had all the paperwork, and I think I submitted it one year to the day.” Michelle said that she knew it would take a few years and she knew she wasn’t ready then. But in that “it was meant to be” sense that CCI seems to specialize in, she was matched with Rumba, a female lab golden mix, at the team training in May of 2013. Michelle said “I was finally in a position where a dog was really helpful. The timing was perfect.”

The video of Rumba at work includes a scene of her getting a can of vegetables at the grocery store. How, I asked Michelle, does she ensure that Rumba picks up the can of corn, for example, instead of the can of beans. “It’s a little bit tricky sometimes,” Michelle explained, “but it’s about how you approach it and setting her up. When we come up to the shelf, I try to aim so the can I want is the one right in front of her.”

These days, Michelle works from home on the Nursing Faculty at Western Governor’s University, an on-line program based in Salt Lake City. Michelle is responsible for mentoring nearly a hundred nursing students – giving them tutoring, coaching, advice. In an earlier job, working in a clinic as a diabetes educator, Michelle’s office mate was always compensating, picking up things Michelle had dropped. Working at home, while her husband is off at work, means that there’s no one around to pick things up. “Without Rumba, I would not be able to work from home.”

Rumba was raised by Mary Lusso Segall in Irvine, California and the Segall family is now close friends with Michelle. “I know not all graduates keep in touch with their dog’s puppy raisers,” Michelle said, “but I want you to know that you really are changing a life. These dogs are such an incredible gift.”

This article first appeared in the Rocky Mountain Region Canine Companions for Independence on-line newsletter, PeEmail February 2017. Photo credit: Devon Murphy





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