Loyal service dog got his owner through grad school, so he receives his own degree

Service dogs can be invaluable companions to people who need them. Not only can they provide medical and emotional help, they also just make great, loyal pets, by your side when you need them most.

So after one loyal service dog stayed by his human’s side throughout grad school, the university decided he was worthy of a major honor.

One service dog, a golden retriever named GRIFFIN (spelled in all caps), is being rewarded for his years of service in a special way.

GRIFFIN first came into his owner’s life at about the time she left home and went away to college. Brittany Hawley has a condition called complex regional ᴘᴀɪɴ syndrome, which keeps her from controlling her muscle contractions. The most obvious sign of this is an involuntary twisting of the legs, which left her in a wheelchair.

Her parents knew she would need assistance as she went away to Clarkson University, so they made arrangements for her to receive a service dog to help her during her college experience. GRIFFIN improved Hawley’s life immediately, fetching what she needed, turning on the lights for her, and helping her with the sᴛʀᴇssᴇs that life at college can bring.

This dog proved his worth: he was able to participate in all the courses in Brittany and helped her open doors and collect materials. In times of anxiety and depression, he also proved to be a comforting friend.

“I felt more independent, I was more social, I felt more outgoing with him,” Brittany told. Brittany and GRIFFIN continued to thrive at Clarkson, and in late 2018 Brittany was ready to graduate.

But she knew she couldn’t have done it without her service dog… and knew she couldn’t celebrate without him. “We moved to New York together, we started school together and we finished together,” Brittany said.

She didn’t just want him by her side, however—she wanted him to have his own degree. Remarkably, the university agreed—and GRIFFIN got to walk across the stage and accept his own honorary degree for “extraordinary contributions to student success.”

GRIFFIN continues to help Hawley in her everyday life. He will always be there for her to help her achieve whatever she sets her mind to. And while he might not care all that much about recognition for his help, he does have an honorary diploma to show just how much everyone appreciates him.

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