Makena Massey is a senior at Arroyo Grande High School, and she and her service dog River will graduate Thursday.
“He means everything to me. He helps me with my health. He helps me with my mental health, and he is just the best friend I could ever ask for,” Massey said.
Makena adopted River almost three years ago prior to developing health issues.
“I had discovered a lot of people with the same health issues as mine had service dogs, so we continued his training and he became my full-time service dog,” she explained.
First adopted as a pet, River is now also a medical response dog with a spot in the school yearbook.
Makena's dad, Mack Massey, said, “Any parent that deals with their child is not feeling well and doing well, any sort of small things make you happy or it is not a small thing, and he really brought it out.”
Makena calls River her full-time best friend and brings him everywhere.
“With my health, he is able to lessen my symptoms and help me stay out for longer and go out with friends a lot more, as well as just being present in school.”
Makena plans to take River to college starting out at Cuesta College and then transferring to a university.
“For the first few semesters, I will be doing mainly STEM classes and so he will be decked out in his dog goggles for labs and boots and lab coats and everything,” Massey said.
“I feel better about her going anywhere when she has him, because I know he's there, too. He's there to help and it gives her confidence having him there,” Mack said.
Makena and River are graduating with a 4.1 GPA.