Service dog earns graduate degree

Johns Hopkins University graduate student Carlos Mora certainly put in a lot of time and effort to earn his master’s degree in Counseling. He conducted in-depth research, completed mountains of homework, and, with a little help from his best friend and service dog, a Golden Retriever named Kirsch, was able to attend classes at the prestigious Baltimore, Md. university.

A photo of Carlos Mora and his seeing-eye service dog, Kirsch, quickly went viral.

Kirsch’s steadfast dedication to his owner’s wellbeing and success did not go unnoticed by the Johns Hopkins faculty or administration.

So when Mora, accompanied as always by loyal seeing-eye dog Kirsch, walked to the stage to receive his long-awaited degree in May 2013, the graduating student was in for a surprise.

In a touching gesture, the university decided to pay tribute to Kirsch at the commencement ceremony as well. A Johns Hopkins official read a special statement as Mora and Kirsch made their way across the graduation stage.

“Our last counseling degree graduate to walk across the stage tonight is Carlos Mora and his service dog Kirsch. Since Kirsch sat through every class with Carlos, both will be receiving a master’s degree in mental health counseling,” the official explained. “We want everyone to know that Kirsch was not charged for his degree.”

Just like his owner, Kirsch’s Master of Science in Counseling degree was signed by the School of Education Dean David Andrews and the Vice Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, making Kirsch’s honorary degree official.

Photos of Johns Hopkins’s first four-legged master’s degree recipient were first posted to Reddit.com and Tumblr three months ago and have since gone viral.

Kirsch’s story is reminiscent of dogs like Hero, a chocolate Labrador Retriever and service dog who donned the same blue graduation cap and gown as his owner, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign student Bridget Evans, who lives with a condition called Spina Bifida.

And 9-year-old Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Parish Comfort Dog Prince was similarly honored by Portage High School in Portage, Indiana for his work as the school’s comfort dog. The friendly Golden Retriever not only received his own professional yearbook photo, but he also led graduating seniors across the football field at their June 2013 graduation ceremony wearing his own custom cap and gown.

Sources: Yahoo! Shine, Huffington Post