Auburn University junior Ashley Ozyurt lights up when speaking about Oz, her service dog. She's an Air Force Veteran, diagnosed with PTSD.
On Tuesday, Ozyurt says Oz literally guided her out of a traumatic experience that began when she says two AU football players tried to call her dog, while she was going to class.
"I could hear them whistling, and finger snapping and making kissing noises, someone was obviously trying to distract my service dog," Ozyurt said.
Ozyurt says she kept walking in the Hayley Center building, the football players followed and kept making noises.
"The only words out of my mouth were 'please don't distract my service dog.' They proceeded to yell very loudly in front of about a dozen people in the vending machine area, what you are going to do about it, what's wrong with you. PTSD hit at that point I started to sweat profusely. When I couldn't speak it seemed like it was even funnier to them. They responded by walking away and [omitted] yelled out over his shoulder that's what I thought...expletive.
Oxyurt says she was called a derogatory term, and was dazed by the attack.
"I was only able to escape the situation by my service dog tugging me into the direction of an empty hallway," Ozyurt said.
She reported the incident to the Office of Accessibility then tried to go to class.
"Just crying and shaking I couldn't stop thinking about it wondering if I had done something wrong or did something to deserve that."
On Tuesday night, AU confirms head coach Gus Malzahn called to apologize.
I have a lot of respect for coach Malzahn. I appreciated him calling to make sure I was okay and to tell me it was going to be handled.
AU Director of Communications mike Clardy released this statement, condemning any demeaning behavior, saying: "We're investigating the reports and will take all appropriate action once all the facts are known."
"This is exactly what he was wearing yesterday," she said.
Ozyurt says Oz always a vest, asking others not to pet him. She says Auburn is a campus where she normally feels accepted and safe.
"It's heartbreaking to be treated like this, especially by boys that are idolized," she said.
Her experience has garnered national attention, with several people questioning her story and PTSD diagnosis.
The president of K-9 for Warriors, Shari Duval, who gave her Oz, says: "Ashley is a disabled Veteran. She graduated with a fully trained and certified service dog to mitigate her symptoms of severe post-traumatic stress [disorder] as a result of military sexual trauma. Each applicant is carefully screened. We have documentation including letters from Veterans Affairs recommending a service dog and verifying her disability. The last thing Ashley wanted was to be a victim yet again."
Ozyurt says she doesn't want the players to be harshly disciplined, but does want the players to apologize in person and learn a lesson.
"I think the boys could use some community service hours at a veteran's organization. The Veterans Resource Center right here on Auburn's campus would be a great start," she said.
News Leader 9 continues to contact the Auburn University Athletic Department for information the players.