Service Dog Given Honorary Diploma When Owner Gets Degree

by : Emily Brown on : 21 Dec 2018 10:56
Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina USA/Facebook

A service dog was given an honorary diploma after his owner received her degree. 

You might say he’s a pedegree dog. Pe-degree? Pedigree? Alright then, we’ll just get on with it.


The lovely golden dog Griffin helps 25-year-old Brittany Hawley, who uses a wheelchair and suffers from chronic pain. She was diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome when she was a teenager.

Brittany received her master’s degree in occupational therapy from Clarkson University in New York, and celebrated the achievement at her graduation ceremony this past weekend (Dec 15).

Dog received honorary university degreeMs. Wheelchair North Carolina USA/Facebook

The four-year-old service dog was by the student’s side throughout her time at school, attending class with her and helping out as Brittany assisted patients as part of an internship.


It sounds like Griffin did more work than a lot of students at university!

The dog fetches his owner’s phone for her when she needs it, opens doors, turns on lights and helps her access out of reach items. He also provides comfort for Brittany, who experiences anxiety and depression as a result of her pain.

Wanting to recognise the dog’s hard work, the 25-year-old pushed for him to receive a diploma of his own from Clarkson University.



She explained:

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

I pushed for him to graduate from Day One. He did everything I did.

When Brittany stepped up on stage to receive recognition for her degree Griffin trotted up faithfully alongside her, suited and booted in a cap and gown of his very own.

I’m actually very curious to know where the service dog’s gown came from. Was it custom made? Or does this university have a habit of giving out degrees to four legged students?



The sight was enough to melt even the coldest of hearts as the fluffy dog stood proudly and took the honorary diploma in his mouth.

The board of trustees for the school honoured the good boy in a speech, saying he demonstrated ‘extraordinary effort, steadfast commitment and diligent dedication to the well-being and student success’.

Brittany and Griffin posed for lots of graduation day pictures which the student posted on Facebook as she reflected on her time at Clarkson University.


Posted by Brittany Hawley on Saturday, 15 December 2018

Her post read:

Two and half years ago me and my “man” GRIFFIN, moved to Potsdam, NY to start grad school! We were moving to a new place, learning how to become a working handler/service dog team, learning how to take care of each other, and starting a new adventure together!

Today we finished this crazy, fun, and exciting experience and achieved my dream of graduating with a Master’s of Occupational Therapy! We got to see our family, aka roommates, and classmates!

I can’t wait to see where we go next GRIFFIN! I am blessed that God allowed you to be by my side through the last two and half years. Excited for the adventures ahead of us!

I’m glad the dog was recognised for his hard work – congratulations Brittany and Griffin!

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Animals


Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina USA/Facebook
  1. Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina USA/Facebook