DAVENPORT, Iowa — Tyler Gerdts hasn’t had the easiest life. He was born with a brain injury and autism. At 17, he is a high school student and that brings a whole new range of hurdles.
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Gerdts may not be jumping those hurdles at top speed but he is well on his way. He just made Iowa history by being the first ever student-athlete to compete on a cross country team… with his amazing service dog!
Hugo is a 20-month-old German Shepherd and he is an official member of the Davenport West High School as Gerdts’ service dog. Even though Hugo accompanies Gerdts in all of his daily activities, he is also a part of the team.
With Hugo’s help, Gerdts has made a 5K personal best of 28 minutes and 11 seconds.
Gerdts does not have a sense of smell, so Hugo is there to sniff out the toxic fumes. Hugo is also trained to apply Deep Pressure Therapy to Gerdts when he becomes anxious and when he has trouble coping. If Gerdts wanders off, Hugo is trained to track and trail.
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Most importantly, Hugo and Gerdts have a connection that he has not had with any other person. His mother Kelley told the Huffington Post, “Tyler and Hugo have a connection that Tyler hasn’t really been able to make with anyone else. With Hugo, we see him change his tone of voice to communicate different feelings to him. Somehow he knows that Hugo will understand him better if he does that.”
What’s next for Gerdts and Hugo? The marching band. Currently, Hugo sits on the sidelines as Gerdts marches. Hugo is completely capable of learning marching and will be joining in very soon!