Precious Service Dog Graduates With His Grateful Owner

Justin and Grace are both honored after getting through college together.

Jul 5, 2023
Precious Service Dog Graduates With His Grateful Owner | Justin and Grace are both honored after getting through college together.

Graduating from college is a meaningful milestone for the vast majority of students, as Graduation Now explains, a time to celebrate their learning journeys after all the time, energy and work that goes into getting a degree. But imagine how this feeling of achievement is magnified if you’ve got through all the challenges and triumphs of studying for a college degree with a disability. For student Grace Mariani, 22, who navigates life in a wheelchair with the help of her service dog, Justin, this accomplishment and the support of her canine buddy was acknowledged in a touching way, when Justin received his own diploma alongside her, in a gesture that went viral, as Bored Panda reports.

The icing on the cake for a devoted canine companion
Most canine companions are unsung heroes, and get rewarded for their loyalty and unconditional love with belly rubs and treats. But for this labrador-golden retriever mix service dog, Seton Hall University in New Jersey, the US, decided that nothing less than a diploma would do for a loyal service animal who had accompanied its owner to all of her lectures, and made it possible for her to lead a successful and independent life.

Apparently, as the Daily Mail details, once on stage with Mariani for her commencement ceremony, Justin sniffed the rolled up diploma he received from college president, Joseph E.Nyre, pausing for a moment, before gleefully taking it in his mouth to rapturous audience applause. 

People reports that fellow alum and current Seton Hall students were quick to commend both Mariani and Justin on social media, with some tweeting that Justin must've been "so proud" of Mariani, and others calling the clip a "wonderful moment." And as Justin is just six years old, that award has to be a record!

An elementary and special education trailblazer in the making
For Mariani, who earned a Bachelor of Science in education, graduating magna cum laude, as DogTime reports, Justin was a route to her dreams from the get-go. In a CNN interview on the story, Jeanine Konopelski, vice president of marketing and advocacy for Canine Companions, the nonprofit that connected Justin with Mariani, shares that “When Grace was matched with Canine Companions service dog Justin, she said her dream was to go away to college and become a teacher.” Thanks to her four-legged friend, she is now making plans to teach elementary and special education, with Justin by her side.

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Daphne has a background in editing, writing and global trends. She is inspired by trends seeing more people care about sharing and protecting resources, enjoying experiences over products and celebrating their unique selves. Making the world a better place has been a constant motivation in her work.