A dream come true

Cecilia Fox | Weekly Record Herald Becca Mason and her service dog Quinn have graduated from training. Community support helped to make Becca’s goal of owning a medical alert dog become a reality.

WEST MILTON — After months of hard work and fundraising, a girl and her dog have finally been united.

Of course, the bond between Milton-Union highschooler Becca Mason and Quinn is no ordinary one. Quinn has been especially trained as a service dog to be Becca’s constant companion.

Due to asthsma and other medical conditions, Becca qualified for a service dog and has worked with SIT Service Dogs to make that goal a reality.

Because service dogs are so highly trained, that reality is an expensive one. Since last year, the Mason family has been hard at work rasing funds to meet their goal of $10,000 to bring Quinn home.

“We just wanted to thank the community for all of their support,” Becca’s mother Michelle Mason said. “We wanted to let people know that everything they’ve helped us with has happened.”

A quarter auction was held last June, and in October a special concert was offered by Elvis impersonator Ryan Roth at Hoffman United Methodist Church.

“The change in Becca has been immediate,” SIT program director Lex Dietz said. SIT is a smaller training program based in Illinois. She has been helping train Becca and Quinn to work together. “Becca’s been amazing.”

The process of being matched with a service dog can take months or even a year, Dietz explained. The dogs are European labradors, a breed selected for the size and temperment.

While the dogs are undergoing specialized training, potential owners are screened through an application process, which includes interviews and a personality profile.

“Each dog is personalized for each person,” Dietz said. “We match them up a little like a dating website.”

The Masons traveled to Illinois last year to meet Quinn, who finally came home a few weeks ago. After some in-home training sessions for both humans and dog, Becca and Quinn have graduated from training and are ready to begin their journey together.

Becca and Quinn have been working hard to form their bond and learn about one another. Though her shirt reads ‘Keep Calm, it’s just a service dog,” Becca is excited to finally have her dog with her.

Dogs can be trained for clients with all types of needs. SIT trains medical alert dogs, seizure response dogs, and mobility assistance dogs.

Quinn for example has been trained to observe Becca’s breathing and alert when an asthma attack is beginning. Quinn can also fetch Becca’s medicine and help her walk when she’s feeling weak, Dietz said.

“Not all disabilities are visible,” Dietz said.

Becca and Quinn will become a familiar sight to the community and Dietz noted that it’s important to remember that service dogs have an important job to do. Petting or distracting service dogs at work can have serious consequences for their humans.

“Dogs can do amazing things for people,” Dietz said. “Anyone who’s ever owned one knows that.”