A Newfound Independence with a New Partner

a smiling man in a wheelchair with a yellow lab in a blue service vest laying across his lapSometimes, all it takes is meeting a future service dog to change one’s future. 26 years ago, Jason experienced a sepsis infection that resulted in swelling of his blood vessels, causing a stroke-like traumatic injury to his brain. Although he displayed remarkable resilience during a year of hospitalizations and therapies, the injury left its mark on his speech, movement and dexterity.

Initially, the idea of having a service dog in his life didn’t pique Jason’s interest. But, everything changed when he met Arrow, a future service dog from Canine Companions. In that encounter, a powerful understanding sparked within him – these weren’t just any dogs; they were dogs that could provide possibilities. “Meeting Arrow and seeing what he was capable of, even at a young age, immediately changed Jason’s mind,” says Tom, Jason’s dad.

In 2017, Jason was matched with Canine Companions Service Dog Hawkins. Hawkins has become Jason’s unwavering ally, helping him regain some of his mobility, and become more confident within his community. Always eager to assist using his 45-plus tasks he mastered in training, Hawkins plods directly to Jason on a mission to retrieve items, whenever Hawkins hears a sound of something falling, even when items are under Jason’s wheelchair.

Partnering with Hawkins not only provides Jason with a newfound independence navigating daily life; there’s a side of him that would have been hard to bring out – bridging the gap between Jason and the people around him.

“Jason’s interactions with people wouldn’t happen without Hawkins,” Tom shares. “I see a side of him that would’ve been hard to bring out to bridge the gap between Jason and the people around him. As a dad, being able to step back and see them together is amazing.”