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March 26, 2019

"Of course they chose to do a fire drill on the coldest day of the month." Mitch mumbles as they stand outside.

Scott takes off his sweatshirt and puts it over Mitch's head, "You can do the rest." Mitch laughs and puts his arms through the sweatshirt.

"I'm still mad at them."

"It's not that cold."

"You don't get a say, you're never cold. You only wear sweatshirts for when I get cold."

"That sounds about right. The longer we stay out here, the more you get to stall for the presentation."

"Damn it, I forgot I'm next."

"Reminder: you're up next."

"Wow, thanks."

A few minutes pass, and the students go back into school.

"Mitchell, you're up." Mitch stands at the front of the class, "Your topic?"

"Service dogs."

"Do you want them to ask questions as you go along or wait until the end?"

"They can ask as I present."

"Proceed."

"Occhi, vieni qui." The class watches the dog stand and walk to Mitch, "Lie down." Occhi lies down next to Mitch.

"This is my dog, Occhi. I got her when I was 14, and I had been blind for almost a year. I can see out of my right eye now, and she walks on my left side." Scott raises his hand, "Oh, god, what now?"

"I guess you could say she's in your blind spot."

A few people laugh, but Mitch just squints at him, "I kinda really hate you for that."

"I doubt it. Continue."

"Occhi is also a support dog. Because of the accident, I was diagnosed wi—... um... I have panic attacks. When I have panic attacks, Occhi is usually the one who gets me out of it."

"How?"

"She knows what to look for. I can show you. If that's okay." He looks to the teacher, who nods.

"Please, go ahead."

Mitch takes a step back and starts to pace around the front of the room, which is when Occhi sits up and watches Mitch. He gently tugs his hair, and Occhi stands in front of him. She stands on her hind legs to put her front paws on Mitch's arm to make him stop.

She stands normally when Mitch stops. He backs himself against the wall and slides down to the floor. He lightly hits his fists against his head, so Occhi paws at his hand until he stops.

Occhi lies on his lap when he seems okay for a few moments, before he looks to be scratching his arms and legs. She paws at his hands until he moves onto his legs, and she lies on his arm, licking the hand she's not on.

He looks down at Occhi and pets her with his free hand, "Good girl, Occhi."

Mitch looks at the class, still sitting on the floor, "Questions?"

"How long do those last?"

"At least 20 minutes. As for my longest, I don't..." He looks at Scott, who holds up the number three and points up, "Over three hours."

"Did your dog help?"

"Not with that one. Scott was with me at the time."

"How does he know how to help?"

Mitch looks at Scott, who answers, "My sister wanted to be a therapist. She knew how to deal with this stuff."

A guy speaks up, "How are you talking about this so easily?"

"I wouldn't be able to if we didn't have this class in the last period because in ten minutes, I can go home and distract myself. It's a pretty hard thing to talk about. Occhi, up." Occhi stands, Mitch standing after.

"Do you have PTSD?" Mitch almost flinches at the person being so blunt.

He takes a sharp breath, "Yes, I do."

"Is that why Scott's so overprotective?" Mitch sees Scott sit up straighter and squint at the person.

"Scott was protective before my accident."

"But he's even more now. Is that why?" The girl pushes more. Mitch tries not to roll his eyes at how nosy she's being.

Mitch glares at Jayden, "No, it's because someone started picking on me again."

"Can you tell us what happened? Like, what accident?"

"I think that's all I have. I... I'm sorry." Mitch quickly goes back to his seat, and Scott grabs his hand, giving it a small squeeze.

"Thank you, Mitchell." While the next student gets set up, the teacher goes to Mitch and speaks quietly, "If you need to, you can step into the hallway. I understand how stressful talking about that can be."

"I'm okay, but thank you." She nods and walks away.

"Hold me, please." Scott pulls Mitch's chair closer and puts an arm around him as the next person starts her presentation. Mitch pulls his legs onto the seat and up to his chest while leaning into Scott's touch.

***

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