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A Heartwarming Tale of Dedication: Service Dog ‘Griffin’ Graduates with Honors Alongside Owner.5lan

In a heartwarming display of unwavering support and exceptional devotion, Griffin, a Golden Retriever service dog, achieved an honorary diploma alongside his owner, Brittany Hawley, during the Clarkson University “December Recognition Ceremony” on December 15, 2018, in Potsdam, New York. Brittany Hawley, who holds a doctorate in Occupational Therapy, and Griffin, her steadfast service dog, have been inseparable throughout their academic journey, attending all their classes together.

From fetching her phone to providing assistance during her patient care internship, Griffin has been Brittany’s constant companion, making it only natural for him to receive an honorary certificate when she earned her master’s degree in occupational therapy from Clarkson University.

“From Day One, I fought for him to graduate,” said Hawley. “Everything I did, he did.”

The school’s board of trustees recognized Griffin during the ceremony, commending his “exceptional effort, unshakable devotion, and devoted attention to the well-being and academic achievement” of Hawley.

Hawley, a 25-year-old resident of Wilson, North Carolina, is wheelchair-bound and experiences severe discomfort. Griffin assists her with various physical tasks such as opening doors, turning on lights, and retrieving designated items using a laser pointer. However, his most important role is providing comfort amidst her constant, acute pain, which often leads to anxiety and sadness.

Griffin became part of Hawley’s life through the “paws4prisons” program, which teaches inmates in West Virginia prisons how to train and deploy high-level support dogs. Hawley recalled, “The convicts let multiple dogs approach you and let the dog choose you. Some of the dogs were terrified of the wheelchair. Griffin rushed into my lap and licked the side of my face.”

During an internship at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Hawley and Griffin supported individuals with physical limitations and psycho-social issues. The simple act of brushing a dog can help improve a patient’s range of motion, and the soothing touch of a dog can alleviate anxiety, according to Hawley.

“My patients would remark, ‘Today, my therapists are Brittany and Griffin,’” she explained.

As Hawley enters the job market, she and Griffin will be considered a package deal. “I couldn’t do anything without him,” she said. “I’m so used to seeing him.” This extraordinary bond between Brittany Hawley and Griffin exemplifies the power of love, support, and the incredible impact service animals can have on the lives of those they assist.

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