Service Dogs of Virginia celebrated the graduation of 11 service dogs on Sunday, the largest graduating class since the organization's founding in 2000.
The organization trains three types of service dogs: physical assistance dogs, autism dogs, and diabetic alert dogs.
The graduating ceremony for the Class of 2016 was held at Walker Upper Elementary School, reports Charlottesville Tomorrow. Each dog was introduced by someone who helped to raise or train him, then the dogs appeared on stage with their new handlers and families.
Three individuals celebrating their dog's graduation were Samuel Miller, Anita Ratliff, and Brandon Payton.
Samuel Miller's Golden Retriever, Addie, helps him manage anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“Addie is friendly and playful, but she also likes to be lazy,” Samuel told Charlottesville Tomorrow. “She helps us feel happy at home.”
Anita Ratliff's granddaughter, who has autism, works with a Black Lab service dog named Charlie. Since her granddaughter often avoids physical contact, "[Charlie] is how my granddaughter is receiving touch," Ratliff said.
And for Brandon Payton, his Black Lab named Tyvek has changed his outlook on life. Payton was paralyzed two years ago in a car crash, and now Tyvek assists him with day-to day-tasks.
"These dogs inspire us in many ways that you don’t get to see,” Payton said. “Tyvek inspires me to think differently about myself and the things I can do.”
Congratulations to the Service Dogs of Virginia Class of 2016 and their families! We wish you all the best.
Learn more about service dogs here.