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Doggedly Determined

Non-traditional student and veteran gets the help she needs to reach for her goal

Micaila Britto, 50, has spent the greater part of her life being there for others. Now she finds herself on the receiving end, and the assistance she receives comes by way of a service animal.

It’s hard to miss her dog Rabbit, who stands 31 inches tall and weighs in at 140 pounds. The animal’s primary job is to help Micaila with mobility issues.

Together they navigate the Bridgewater State University campus where Micaila is working toward a bachelor’s degree in photography.

The U.S. Marine Corps veteran was recently gifted the female Great Dane from members of a local Rotary Club, after they learned of her balance issues due to injuries sustained in the line of duty.

Because of Rabbit’s size, many often make comments or worse, approach and pet the dog before asking. When that happens, it can throw Micaila off balance.

“I realize people aren’t being malicious, but it’s important to remember as a service dog she is supposed to be invisible, she’s an extension of me,” Micaila said. “You wouldn’t just walk up and touch me. Always talk to me first, talk to the person not the dog.”

Aside from her physical limitations, Micaila also has short-term memory issues because of the traumatic brain injuries she suffered as a Marine.

While Rabbit helps her with mobility, BSU is providing additional support.

The Academic Achievement Center provides her with a note taker,  helps with study preparation, and extends accommodations for extended time on projects.

“Because of my immediate short-term memory loss, I can get overloaded with words. I know what the word is, but can’t recall the meaning. It’s great having that little bit of extra support in my corner to help me succeed,” Micaila said.

Faculty have been nothing less than magnanimous in the support they’ve provided, she added.

“All of my professors have been amazing.”

Even though Micaila has more than 35 years of work experience, including her current position as director of Raynham’s Veterans’ Services, she is determined to earn a college degree. With Rabbit by her side, and the BSU community’s support, that goal is becoming a reality.

“I made a promise to my dad before he passed away in 2003, that I would get my degree,” Micaila said. “Even though I’m a non-traditional student, I feel it’s important that I do this…even if it takes me until my 60th birthday to finish.

“It’s not just a piece of paper,” she said.


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