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.
Brittany Hawley, from Wilson, North Carolina, uses a wheelchair and suffers from a condition called complex regional pain syndrome. She was the perfect candidate for a service dog, and a few years ago received one through the paws4prisons program.
When she met a dog named Griffin, she knew he was the one: “Some dogs were scared of the wheelchair,” Brittany told AP. “Griffin jumped right into my lap and licked me across the face.”
Griffin came into her life just as she was about to embark on an exciting new journey: attending Clarkson University to get her master’s degree in occupational therapy.
The dog proved his worth: he was able to go to all of Brittany’s classes, and helped her by doing things like opening doors and fetching supplies. He also proved to be a comforting friends during periods of anxiety and depression.
“I felt more independent, I was more social, I felt more outgoing with him,” Brittany told CBS News.
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.
“I pushed from day one, when I graduate, I want Griffin to graduate with me.”
Remarkably, the university agreed—and Griffin got to walk across the stage and accept his own honorary degree for “extraordinary contributions to student success.”
“The Board of Trustees recognized that Griffin has demonstrated extraordinary effort, steadfast commitment, and diligent dedication to the wellbeing and student success of his owner Brittany,” Clarkson said in a statement.
“The two have pursued 100% together a graduate degree in Occupational Therapy attending all the same classes, lectures, faculty appointments … fully making Griffin an equal member of the Clarkson Golden Knights family.”
After graduation, Brittany continued to pursue her dream of becoming an occupational therapist, hoping to work with veterans and military people.