Sign In

Service Dog’s Impact

June 10, 2020

Hawk Ricketts and Tanner had been pals since Hawk was 9.

Hawk was just a boy and trapped in his own world then, and Tanner was a newly trained service dog who opened the rest of the world to his very own boy who has a sensory processing disorder.

The community paid for Tanner through fundraisers and rallied to fund an emergency surgery for him a few years ago.

Tanner, an old man by dog standards, died last week at age 11, leaving Hawk, now a man of 19, devastated.

Tanner passed two days before Hawk’s birthday, and Hawk was already grieving the loss of his father to a long-term illness in December.

But, despite his grief, Hawk, who lives in Zionsville, wants the community to know he’s grateful for the life altering gift of Tanner.

“This is one of the hardest times of my life,” Hawk wrote in an open letter to the community. “It is with profound sadness and gut-wrenching heart that I want to let everyone know that I’ve had to say goodbye to my best friend, Tanner.

“Tanner introduced me to the world as each of you knows it,” Hawk wrote. “I was 9 years old when Tanner walked into my life and took his rightful place beside my (wheel)chair. He helped me navigate life and conquer my fears. Having him by my side has meant independence. With Tanner, I became ‘Hawk the Brave.’

“Tanner loved everyone, and I am forever grateful for all the love and kindness everyone showed him. … Please send up a prayer that my best friend has arrived safely in God’s heaven.

“I don’t know how to navigate through life without him. I am crushed. …”

Hawk and Tanner completed high school with high honors in June 2019 and just completed their freshman year at Wabash College, where Hawk attended on a dean’s merit scholarship.

Tanner was showing signs of his advanced age, such as arthritis, and wasn’t quite up to working on campus from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Hawk’s mother, Brenda Ricketts, said. They bought boots for the dog when his feet got cold from walking on concrete last winter.

“It was the funniest thing to watch him walk in boots,” Brenda said. “It was hilarious. He was such a comic.”

Hawk and Tanner had already volunteered at the Children’s TherAplay Foundation during high school. And Hawk and Brenda were beginning to think about letting Tanner retire to a nursing home where he loved to visit and entertain residents.

But blood clots on Tanner’s aorta and brain and related complications took Tanner last week, Brenda said.

Hawk is too aggrieved at present to discuss another therapy dog, Brenda said, but she knows he needs one, and friends are encouraging her to begin looking.

She does not have funds for a new dog. Tanner cost more than $10,000 and came from Northern Indiana Service Dogs. Plus, that organization won’t have one available for months, or maybe a year, Brenda said. It takes up to two years for some dogs to be fully trained.

Hawk wants his next dog to also come from NISD, and Brenda hopes a solution will arise by the time Hawk needs to return to Wabash.

Hawk is on the medical track academically and participating in an Eli Lily summer work program that is online this summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s good the program is offered online because Hawk is immunocompromised, his mother said.

She’s unsure if Wabash classes will resume in person or online in August and hopes Hawk can study online so they have more time to find a suitable new pal for him.

“Because of Tanner, Hawk was able to do everything he did,” Brenda said. “He was the greatest gift. He opened Hawk’s whole world up and provided so much independence for Hawk.”

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more

    The Right Rescue Dog

    If your New Year’s resolution is to add a canine family member, good for you. Somewhere out there is the perfect puppy or adult dog for your family. You have a lot of things to think about when you begin to look for that new family member, puppy or dog? Large or small? Purebred or […]

    Read more