- Associated Press - Monday, July 14, 2014

ESCANABA, Mich. (AP) - Harold “Bud” Irving and his service dog, “Chopper,” are practically household names throughout Delta County for their many years of volunteer work with area veterans and the elderly. And now they can include the entire state of Michigan on their list of admirers.

Bud traveled to Detroit on June 30 where he was one of 10 individuals from throughout the state who were presented with the 2014 Governor’s Service Awards, according to the Daily Press of Escanaba ( http://bit.ly/1qcsAKb ).

Bud was nominated as a finalist in the Senior Volunteer of the Year category by Denise Perry, Community Resource Coordinator for the Delta/Menominee/Dickinson County Department of Human Services.

The program, “An Evening with the Stars,” was held at the Gem Theater and was sponsored by the Ford Motor Co. Fund. Presenting the awards was Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

The 10 finalists were selected from more than 160 individuals, businesses, and nonprofit organizations from across the state who were nominated for their commitment to volunteer service. The Governor’s Service Awards is in its 20th year.

His citation reads: “Harold “Bud” L. Irving has a unique way of serving veterans in his Upper Peninsula community. For 25 years, his dogs have accompanied Bud as he serves as a registered volunteer driver for the Delta County Department of Human Services and the Upper Peninsula Health Plan, helping veterans travel to doctor appointments.

“His first dog, Chubbers, became a part of Bud’s unique volunteer driving device with a touch of pet therapy. In addition to driving, Bud and Chubbers also spent long hours with patients recovering from chemotherapy or dialysis. Word spread and soon patients were requesting the ‘guy with the dog.’

“When Chubbers passed away, Bud trained Choppers so they could continue visiting patients for pet therapy visits. Bud has volunteered 14,263 hours for the Delta County DHS and logged more than 375,000 miles. In 2013, he contributed 534 hours and 1,037 miles.

“Bud and his dogs have served as many ailing veterans’ best friends during some of their toughest moments.”

Obviously proud of his latest accolades, Bud is, at the same time, very humbled by the experience.

“I never expected it,” he said, showing off the acrylic statuette and framed certificate that were presented to him at the award ceremony.

Because he has difficulty with mobility, Irving was driven to Detroit by his nephew, Craig Irving. Unfortunately, Bud felt the trip and anticipated crowd of well-wishers would be too hard on his dog, so Chopper remained at home with a relative.

“I knew he would be too nervous so I thought it was best to leave him home,” Bud explained. “But he sure was excited to see me when I got back home.”

Even though he was without his four-legged sidekick, Irving said he was more than glad to make the trip.

“Were they ever nice to all of us down there,” he said. He had brought along a motorized wheelchair to ride on but when he and his nephew arrived in Detroit, it didn’t work so Bud used two canes to walk into the theater. Once inside, he was given access to a wheelchair to use during the ceremony.

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