College graduate's golden retriever gets honorary diploma for helping her cope with disability

College graduate's golden retriever gets honorary diploma for helping her cope with disability

Air Buddy might have met his real life match! A four-year-old golden retriever has been awarded with an honorary diploma from Clarkson University for helping his human companion cope with her disability, USA Today reports.

The honored pooch, Griffin, is the service dog of Brittany Hawley, 25, of Wilson, North Carolina. Hawley uses a wheelchair and suffers from chronic pain, but was determined to get her master's degree in occupational therapy from Clarkson University with Griffin's help.

Throughout her time at college, Griffin was always there for her. From opening doors, turning on lights, to bringing her items she indicated with a laser pointer.

Even when she assisted patients as part of an internship, Griffin was there to lend a helping paw. But perhaps the most important factor is the comfort Griffin provides to Hawley amid her relentless, severe pain that causes anxiety and depression.

Fittingly, when Hawley was honored for receiving her master's degree, Griffin was again right by her side, being awarded for his exceptional service. The board of trustees of the Potsdam, New York school honored the 4-year-old golden retriever at a recognition ceremony on Saturday, saying he demonstrated "extraordinary effort, steadfast commitment and diligent dedication to the well-being and student success" of Hawley.

"I pushed for him to graduate from Day One,” Hawley said. “He did everything I did.”


Hawley got Griffin through “paws4prisons,” a program that teaches inmates at West Virginia prisons to train and place high-level assistance dogs.

“The inmates allow many dogs to come up to you and let the dog choose you,” Hawley said. “Some dogs were scared of the wheelchair. Griffin jumped right into my lap and licked me across the face.”

As mentioned earlier, Hawley and Griffin worked at Fort Bragg in North Carolina during an internship, helping soldiers with mobility impairments as well as psycho-social disorders. Hawley revealed how brushing a dog would help improve a patient’s range of motion, and how stroking Griffin would help ease their anxiety.

“My patients would say, ‘My therapist today is Brittany and Griffin,’” Hawley said to demonstrate how much of an impact the dog made on her patients. Hawley also confirmed that when she applies for jobs now, Griffin will come along as a "package deal"!



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