With the holidays now quickly fading behind us, there are some stories that we should still keep in mind – like what happened with 9-year-old Hunter and his service dog, Angel.
Like all other kids, Hunter loves Christmas. He also really loves his service dog, Angel. So naturally, when it was the festive season, Hunter was excited to take Angel with him to get a picture with Santa at a Massachusetts mall. What was supposed to be a fun photo, quickly became a heartbreaking experience when staff turned away Hunter and Angel.
While Angel is a very sweet and cute dog, she’s much more than just a pet – she’s a service dog specifically trained to help Hunter who has epilepsy. She must be by his side at all times in order to protect him since she can sense his seizures coming on, and is able to alert him and others to them in order for Hunter to find a comfortable spot before he falls.
Because she’s with him on a daily basis and is a service dog, when Hunter and his family were informed that Angel wasn’t allowed at the photos with Santa, they were shocked! They’d waited nearly two hours.
As Hunter’s mom, Sarah Specht, explained, Hunter loves Christmas so much that he even tries to wear his Santa hat all year round. So meeting with Santa is one of the holiday highlights for him. Sadly, this year he was left wondering why Santa didn’t like his service dog.
After leaving the event, Hunter was devastated, leaving Specht worried that he’d begin to doubt Santa following the experience.
“Christmas is supposed to be a magical time and for that to happen last night and see my son crushed. I hope that no parent ever has to face that,” Specht said.
The family contacted the company in charge of the photos in order to bring up the issue. The company apologized, saying they do allow service dogs at the photos, and agreed that the situation wasn’t acceptable.
“The employee involved in this incident did not follow our Cherry Hill Programs protocol,” the company officials explained. “The individual has been suspended and we are investigating the matter. We have reached out to the family with an apology and invitation to return for a private visit with Santa at their earliest convenience.”
While this offer for a private visit with Santa was a wonderful response, Hunter got something even more heartwarming. After news about Hunter’s situation began to spread throughout the community, police, and firefighters decided to come together to escort Santa directly to Hunter’s house in order for Hunter and his dog angel to get a photo with him.
“The fact that they heard the story and they want to fix this for Hunter, it means so much to me. He’s at that age when he may start questioning Santa and I don’t want to see him lose that belief out of a bad experience,” Specht recalled.
The kind actions of the community-made Hunter, Angel, and Hunter’s family feel very grateful.