A post by Judy Rose of Abilene, Texas blew up on Facebook recently, receiving tens of thousands of hits in a brief few hours. It was simply a photo of a man and his dog, both wearing Lowe’s vests.
As it turns out, Clay Luthy, an Air Force veteran and 2000 Yosemite High graduate, has been working in Lowe’s customer service, with Charlotte, his service dog by his side, since October of last year. A customer he had never met, Rose, was so impressed by the pair that she took a photo of the two from behind, posting it on her Facebook page to share with friends, but it mushroomed into so much more.
“I came home from work one day and my wife told me my photo was on Facebook,” Luthy said. “I was surprised and checked it out ... and the whole thing kind of exploded into this.”
“This” refers to the thousands of hits, praise for Lowe’s, media attention and requests.
Even though Luthy prefers to stay out of the spotlight, one of his coworkers encouraged him to speak with the media as a means to possibly help other service dog teams find employment, and so his story has since been covered by newspapers and television stations.
Doing her part to assist, 10-year-old Golden Retriever, Charlotte, seems to enjoy her elevated status of mini-celebrity, proudly sporting her Lowe’s vest, which was fashioned from an apron.
“Everyone loves her,” Luthy said. “She’s such a sweetheart. Normally you’re never supposed to pet a service dog, but Charlotte knows the difference between her Lowe’s vest and her service vest. She knows when she’s allowed to be petted.”
Luthy, 35, joined the U.S. Air Force after 9-11 because of the terrorism threat. After serving four years, with deployments to areas like Uzbekistan and Qatar, he settled in Abilene. Married with three children, he and Charlotte now work in customer service 20 hours a week. While he is able to walk, Luthy is unable to kneel or stand for long periods of time. So far, he has had a total of five surgeries on both knees. Following his last surgery about nine months ago, he underwent four months of physical therapy before looking for work.
“I was a self-employed handyman for six years but had to quit because of my knee problems,” Luthy continued. “I knew that Lowe’s store really well because of my business, and they didn’t care that I needed to have Charlotte with me ... they have been absolutely fantastic about it.”
In a Washington Post story, a Lowe’s spokeswoman said that hiring Luthy, along with Charlotte, was simply a matter of accommodating a qualified employee.
Recently, Lowe’s corporate media team met with Luthy for a taped interview. The plan is to show this video at the annual convention in an effort to encourage all stores to hire the most qualified person and then work within that person’s limitations.
When it comes to service dog teams, Luthy explained, “We can do everything anyone else can. It’s just that we have a different piece of medical equipment (service dogs), much like a person with a prosthetic leg.”
Luthy is currently training 8-month-old Golden Retriever, Lola, as his medical alert service dog so that Charlotte can focus on basking in her retirement.
And just in case you’re wondering, Luthy finally met Rose for the first time - when she came in to apologize for all the publicity that single photo had unexpectedly stirred up while he was simply doing his job with his beloved Charlotte by his side.
To see the photo that caused all the commotion, go to www.facebook.com/clay.luthy.