Service Golden Retriever Gets Honorary Diploma Alongside His Owner


Service dogs play an essential role in the lives of individuals with disabilities. 

They are highly-trained professionals that do an important job, from performing day-to-day tasks to helping their owner deal with stressful situations and a whole range of emotions. 

Essentially, they are much more than just an animal. For people with disabilities, those animals are simply everything in their life – ultimate companions, helping hands, a support system, and a best friend.

For Brittany Hawley, a North Carolina native, going to a university wouldn’t be possible without her service dog, GRIFFIN. 

This beautiful Golden Retriever boy helped her achieve her dream of graduating with an Occupational Therapy degree. 

And, in the end, he also got to walk alongside his beloved owner at the ceremony and receive his own diploma! 

After all, he fully deserved it with his merits and hard work!

GRIFFIN, The Golden Retriever Service Dog 

a girl kisses her dog at a graduation ceremony
Source: Twitter

“If I need help, he’s got me because he loves me unconditionally,” Brittany told CBS News.

Brittany’s dream has always been to obtain a graduate degree in Occupational Therapy; however, at the age of 16, she developed something called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).

In such a short time, she went from once being a “normal” and active teenager who played softball to a girl with many muscle problems, excruciating pain, and many psychological problems, such as depression. 

Her condition also affected her legs, so she is unable to walk, and has to use a wheelchair or crutches on a daily basis, which has made her severely depressed. 

After seeing her psychologist, who also had a service dog, Brittany applied for her own. 

the dog sleeps next to the girl at the graduation ceremony
Source: @blhawley06

On the same day, Brittany got her interview at Clarkson University, in Potsdam, New York, and was approved for a service dog through Paws4People

This is a service dog training program that trains and places assistance dogs with people in need to transform their life for the better. 

And, so their journey began. 

“We were in it from the beginning. We moved to New York together, we went through school together, and we moved back to North Carolina together,” Brittany told CBS News. “He made going to school a lot easier for me.”

GRIFFIN has helped Brittany gain more independence and has also helped her with social isolation that she sometimes feels due to her condition. 

“I felt more independent, I was more social, and I felt more outgoing with him,” said Brittany. 

the dog stands next to the girl in the wheelchair at the graduation ceremony
Source: @blhawley06

In addition to providing enormous support, GRIFFIN is also trained to turn lights off and on, get things out of the fridge, assist with the wheelchair, and even retrieve things in an emergency, such as a phone. 

GRIFFIN assisted Brittany with everything. Whenever she went to class, he was always right there next to her. He never missed a class. 

“I pushed from day one for GRIFFIN to graduate with me,” Brittany told CBS News. “I wanted him to get a diploma just because he did everything… we didn’t miss a class, he went to everything I went to, and I wouldn’t have been able to finish without him.”

the dog carries the diploma in its mouth

“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. The two have pursued 100% together a graduate degree in Occupational Therapy, attending all the same classes, lectures, faculty appointments, group study sessions, social activities, research projects, and clinical experiences, fully making Griffin an equal member of the Clarkson Golden Knights family,” declared the President of Clarkson University. 

At Clarkson University’s December 2018 Recognition Ceremony, GRIFFIN Hawley was awarded an honorary diploma for his extraordinary contributions. 

Wearing a cap and gown, GRIFFIN proudly accepted his well-deserved diploma while everyone clapped and cheered for him. With a diploma in his mouth, GRIFFIN even struck a pose for photographers, being the good boy he is. 

smiling girl looking at her dog
Source: Youtube

GRIFFIN also helped Brittany find love. She met her fiancée through the Paws4People organization, and GRIFFIN was even involved in the proposal. 

“This boy has changed my life in so many ways. I never thought a dog would give me more hope in overcoming my disability than all the treatments I have tried. GRIFFIN, you are simply one of a kind, and you will never know how much independence you have given me,” Brittany said in an appreciation post on her Instagram account. 

This adorable pair has a lot to look forward to, and I am sure that this devoted pup will always be by Brittany’s side.