You will typically find this fun-loving trio anywhere there’s a beach or spending precious time with their family and loved ones in Ohio. While the Bland family has enjoyed living as far west as Reno, Nevada all the way to the east coast of Vernon, Connecticut and even in between in Columbus, Ohio, they now call the great state of Texas their home.
It wasn’t until 1997 that life as they knew it would be changed forever when their son Jason was involved in an accident that resulted in him utilizing a wheelchair for mobility and an iPad for communication. Daily tasks that had once been so easy, were now more challenging than ever and Jason slowly started to become more introverted over the years.
Fast forward several years to where Jason’s life would unexpectedly change again through a simple conversation with a friend while attending a Military Appreciation Night at a Frisco Rough Riders baseball game where the Canine Companions for Independence Lone Star Volunteer Chapter just happened to have a booth. It was there that his new journey would truly begin.
Service Dog Hawkins joined the Bland family in November 2017 and Jason will now tell you, “He’s really opened up my life in ways I never thought were imaginable since becoming a team. Hawkins is so patient, he just gets me.” Jason’s father Tom said, “When we were asked to do this interview, I sat back and allowed my son to respond to your request directly. While that may not seem like much to most, this was a huge step for Jason by allowing him to express himself without any coaching from others. It’s truly amazing the accomplishments Hawkins has brought to Jason’s life and before him, Jason was reluctant to engage others in any form of conversation and would often just not respond to any type of requests. Now he speaks openly with folks and brags about the skills his special friend has and everything they’ve been able to do together.”
Through the friendships they’ve established within the Canine Companions for Independence community and the Lone Star Chapter, they have been able to volunteer some of their time while gaining a greater sense of community and belonging. They have connected with so many individuals who they will be forever grateful for and none more than the puppy raiser families that they hope to one day become. Jason and Hawkins have even headed up a toy drive last September at a local pet store in their community to help collect targeted toys for puppy raisers that participate in the puppy raising program at Federal Medical Center Carswell through Canine Companions. It’s just one of several ways that Hawkins and the Bland family hope to give back and show their appreciation to a program that gives so much while asking for so little in return.
by Shelley Neustupa