The dog days of summer are nearly upon us. For seventeen-year-old Desi, however – a recently-graduated senior at Freedom Christian High School, in Hudsonville, Michigan – she has been living the “dog days” for four years now. And she could not be happier.
Four years ago, Desi – who suffers from cerebral palsy – was fortunate enough to be paired with a service dog named Walton, who has been by her side constantly ever since. Walton helps her walk by enabling her to keep her balance, and he helps her to accomplish small, daily tasks she would otherwise not be able to handle (the sorts of small, daily tasks that most of us take for granted!). In all, Walton has not just been a nice addition to Desi’s life, but has been downright indispensable, to a point where Desi has often found herself wondering aloud how she ever managed to get by without his help.
Now that she is finished with high school, Desi already knows what she wants to do – and she has Walton to thank for this as well. Her connection with Walton has helped her realize just how much she loves animals, and as such, she is hoping to get a job at an animal rescue or animal shelter where she can dedicate her life to giving back to animals, in exchange for all the help she has received from Walton.
Before being able to reach that point, however, there was still the “minor detail” of graduation day – that day of celebration that marks the culmination of all of a young person’s efforts up to that point. While Desi was surely proud of herself for reaching graduation, however, she also realized that the accomplishment was as much Walton’s as hers. After all, if not for Walton, she wonders if she would ever have been able to achieve all the things she has achieved to this point. So, while Walton was certainly going to be walking across the stage with Desi (helping her walk, after all, is part of what he does!), she wanted to take things one step further and give him a chance to “graduate” as well. The school agreed to go along with this idea, and a special cap and gown were designed for Walton himself – enabling Desi and Walton to not only walk across the stage together, but the “graduate” together as well!
Now, it is onto the next chapter of their shared lives, as Desi begins to search for an opportunity to help at an animal rescue or animal shelter. And of course, it will be one more opportunity for Walton to contribute to all that Desi does. After all, what better place for Walton to go after graduation than a place filled with other animals, where he and Desi can help!