University Awards Service Dog His Own Degree Because He 'Pushed' His Owner Through Grad School

Jun 08, 2022 by apost team

One student's story of her graduation has gone viral. While she earned her master's degree, her dog graduated from the university as well! In the story, a golden retriever named Griffin is the service dog of 25-year-old Brittany Hawley. Hawley has used a wheelchair since she learned that she has reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome as a teenager. 

When Hawley was set to graduate from her degree in 2018, she figured that without the help of Griffin, she wouldn't have been able to finish her master's degree. So it was only fitting, she thought, that Griffin would be honored for his help too.

After reaching out to her university, they not only decided to award Griffin an honorary degree but they made him part of the ceremony too! Needless to say, Griffin's inclusion in the ceremony delighted everyone there.

Hawley received her master's degree from New York state's Clarkson University in occupational therapy. At the graduation ceremony, both Hawley and Griffin received their diplomas. This good boy was even honored with a speech. A representative from the school's board shared that Griffin demonstrated steadfast commitment, extraordinary effort, and diligent dedication to Hawley's success.

After the ceremony, Hawley shared a moving post about her and Griffin's journey together on social media. In it, she detailed how they moved to New York together and the loyal ways in which Griffin helped her.

This story is incredibly sweet and animal lovers all over will be able to understand the closeness between Hawley and Griffin, but especially anyone who has a service dog.    

Be sure to reach the end of this article to see the full video :-) 

According to a post by Hawley on social media, the service dog stood by his owner's side during every class, exam and study session. Griffin sure got an education as he completed his own learning right alongside Hawley. On a daily basis, Griffin gets his owner's phone, turns the lights on, opens doors, and reaches items that are hard to get. He's also there to comfort Hawley, helping her with depression and anxiety.

When Hawley wanted to recognize Griffin's hard work, she asked Clarkson University to award the dog a diploma. Hawley explained that she would never be able to participate in anything without her dog. She wanted Griffin to graduate alongside her as he did everything she did. 

As Hawley prepared to receive her degree, the dog walked right next to her, donning a cap and gown, ready to graduate. As one of Clarkson's first four-legged students, Griffin's presence at the graduation melted hearts and wowed students and faculty. The fluffy golden retriever eagerly took his honorary diploma, carrying it in his mouth. Posing for several graduation pictures, Griffin and Hawley were the stars of graduation. Speaking with the Washington Post, Hawley explained: 

“I pushed for him to graduate from day one. He did everything I did.”

She explained to the news outlet that she got Griffin through “Paws4prisons,” which teaches inmates at West Virginia prisons to train high-level assistance dogs. Explaining how Griffin chose her, Hawley explained:

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

While Hawley was undergoing her internship as part of her studies, she worked at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where she helped soldiers who had mobility problems as well as mental health issues. In fact, Griffin did his part in helping the soldiers in their recovery too, as stroking a dog can help improve a person's range of motion, as well as helping to ease anxiety. Hawley's patients even considered Griffin to be part of their care team. Hawley told the Washington Post:

“My patients would say, ‘My therapist today is Brittany and Griffin.'"

Hawley explains that when she will apply for jobs in the future, she and Griffin will be a package deal. She said:

“I couldn’t participate in anything without him. I’m so used to him being there.”

Beyond helping Hawley with her work, we're sure her patients won't have any issues with gorgeous Griffin being part of their care team — after all, who wouldn't want a good boy there!

In her post on Facebook, Hawley shared more about her grad school journey. Two and a half years ago, she and Griffin moved to New York when she was set to begin grad school. They moved to a new apartment, learned how to work together, became each others' best friends and started their new adventure together. She finished her post by sharing how they both graduated together, helping Hawley achieve her dream of getting a master's degree in occupational therapy. Only time will now tell what is on the horizon for Griffin and Hawley!   

What a beautiful story! Do you know any service dogs? Were you touched by the tale of Brittany Hawley and Griffin? If you found this story heartwarming then pass it on to those you know! 

Please scroll below for more stories :-)