Sean’s Fighting Spirit

“Falling in love with a dog in just two days is kind of crazy.”
-Sean Goral

Sean's Story Part I: No Do-Overs

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[TEXT ON SCREEN: Sometimes, life can give you a bad break. Refusing to let it break your spirit is how heroes are made.

TEXT ON SCREEN: SEAN’S STORY PART I: No Do-Overs

SEAN: All my dreams, I am always walking. I am never in a wheelchair. I guess it just took me a minute to kind of like understand what happened, like, fully. You know, you think you get injured. You know, the one thing in your body that you break. You don't really get a do-over. I was down in Statesboro, Georgia, going to school at Georgia Southern. I went out with some friends to like the bars. I got a ride from someone I didn't know. It turned out he was drunk. We crashed the car. I like immediately knew, studying biology, that something was wrong with my spinal cord because I couldn't feel my legs or really move well.

The first thing I said when I woke up was, “Will I get to surf again?” It was like, “Probably not.” Sorry, I am like still sleeping.

I still hold onto hope that at some point science or some type of engineering will develop. There will be some kind of solution to paralysis. That is my life now. It is kind of—it obviously requires the wheelchair and a lot of help from people more so than I was accustomed. I guess being really outdoorsy, it is kind of tough. Because I do not really get to go on hikes anymore. Now, I just kind of like try to find new avenues to put my energy and my time. I try to keep my mind busy. I am looking to go to grad school. But instead of for shoreline ecology, I am thinking more towards the neuroscience just because I have a neurological kind of disorder.

The Canine Assistants program provides dogs for people with disabilities. It helps with stress. But it can help you do functional things. Just, I am really excited to see all that they really can do. I think some people are a little kind of hesitant when it is like going up and talking with someone in a wheelchair. I think maybe having a dog would be a little more inviting. Like, hey that guy has a dog. He can clearly take care of a dog. Maybe he is a cool guy. I do not know. I am most looking forward to I guess just like, just like having a companion to just hang out with. You feel like—I have someone with me even if I am alone.

TEXT ON SCREEN: Canine Assistants is dedicated to the education of service dogs and the people they assist so they may enhance and improve the lives of one another.]

Sean's Story Part II: A Perfect Match

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[TEXT ON SCREEN: Celebrating the Bond: SEAN’S STORY PART II: A Perfect Match

TEXT ON SCREEN: This is the second of four videos chronicling Sean Goral’s heroic journey, as a Canine Assistants service dog forever changed his life for the better.

SEAN: I am super stoked that this is a reality, that I am going to be getting a dog. And just getting to see the dog is not just an idea, it is a real thing. There is actually a dog right there that could be mine. Just kind of open-minded about the whole thing, and just kind of interested to see what is next. Once we get our dogs, it will not be as much telling them what to do and ordering them around, it will be more just this kind of friendship or relationship.

KAREN: This is Spirit.

SEAN: Hey, Spirit.

When Karen came up and told me it was my turn to go, my heart started racing. It was just a—I was not prepared for that. But yeah, after they brought Spirit out the first time and she was not very interested in me. And they were like well we are going to try a second dog. I was kind of like well that is—the dog did not like me. Am I going to get it? I just—it is very emotional. I was kind of like—my heart sunk a little just because I was like I thought there would be a connection and there really was not at first.

And they brought the second dog, Marvel. And Marvel did not seem very interested. So I was kind of like, I do not know how this process is. Do I go through ten dogs or what is it? And then they brought Spirit back. And Spirit just immediately connected. And it was—I do not know. It was kind of euphoric.

This animal just bonded with you in less than a minute. And you are just like I want to be with you for the rest of your life. And we are going to—I don’t know—have a life of experiences together. It’s amazing.

TEXT ON SCREEN: Canine Assistants is dedicated to the education of service dogs and the people they assist so they may enhance and improve the lives of one another.]

Sean's Story Part III: Graduation

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[TEXT ON SCREEN: Celebrating the Bond: SEAN’S STORY PART III: Graduation

TEXT ON SCREEN: This is the third of four videos chronicling Sean Goral’s heroic journey, as a Canine Assistants service dog forever changed his life for the better.

SEAN: Since Spirit’s been home, you know, at first I didn’t really see it, but then I had—like once I got back to like just being back to my normal like living environment, I’ll be watching TV or I’ll be out in the park and she’ll just like lay down or if I’m going and doing something, she’s up and about. So it’s like actually like a perfect match.

I couldn’t see not having a dog and that like, I don’t know, I think like their responsibility is like empowering.

SEAN’s MOM: Good girl. Good girl. Yay!

SEAN: I thought the matching would be like, you know, you’d like to get a dog and then that’s, you know, just kind of that’s that. I didn’t think it would be so—so much emotion coming from the dog and for me, I don’t know, falling in love with the dog in like two days, which is kind of crazy.

All the recipients did kind of an Olympic thing where they all had to do something with their dog. It first started with having the dog like go find their person. After, you know, she came and found me, then we switched and she went in the room, you know, with dogs, people all over the room, so many distractions. She still shot a beeline for me. So it’s a nice feeling. You know, it definitely, like, makes me happy about Spirit and, you know, and training with here even more after camp. Sean and Spirit.

It was cool just seeing all the people in the room. You know, all the people that make the organization work. It’s just insane. If felt really special having my whole family there.

It’s going to change my life, not just like physically getting me or helping me do stuff, but just like waking up and just having like this awesome dog there and just like, “What’s up? What are we going to do today?” Like whatever we want. It’s going to be, you know, adventures. So that’s just amazing for me.

TEXT ON SCREEN: Canine Assistants is dedicated to the education of service dogs and the people they assist so they may enhance and improve the lives of one another.]

Sean's Story Part IV: The Final Chapter

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[TEXT ON SCREEN: Celebrating the Bond: SEAN’S STORY PART IV: The Last Chapter

TEXT ON SCREEN: This is the fourth and final video chronicling Sean Goral’s heroic journey, as a Canine Assistants service dog forever changed his life for the better.

SEAN: I had Spirit for about a month and then, you know, we moved across country, and she did really good with all the change. And during that it was kind of like we were in close confines, so, you know, I got a chance to work with her a lot more. And then we got here, and we have a yard and everything so it’s really nice.

This is the closest I’ve ever lived to the ocean in my life. I’ve always loved the ocean. And you know, I wake up in my bed and right above my bed I have two of my like favorite surfboards mounted to the ceiling. So I wake up, look at those, and I’m just like, “Well, I like, you know –.” All I really want to do is just like wake up, grab one of my boards, throw some board on and just like go catch a couple of waves before I got to get my day started. So it was a bit torturous. I’m like so close to it, but so far away from it.

But I don’t think there’ll ever be a day where I’m like, “I’m okay with this. You know, this is fine.” But I definitely think like Spirit helps bring out the best of it. She’s always giving me energy and, you know, encourages me to do more and get out more.

Getting Spirit went like beyond what I thought I would get from it. You know, I just thought I was just going to get this dog that would help me do stuff, but actually like gave me a lot more responsibility and even like gave me some like purpose, you know.

Canine Assistants is life-changing. It changed my life for the better, so I guess that’s all I could say.

TEXT ON SCREEN: Canine Assistants is dedicated to the education of service dogs and the people they assist so they may enhance and improve the lives of one another.]

Sean Goral lived to surf. But after a horrific car wreck left him with a catastrophic spinal cord injury, he had to learn to live again. Fortunately, he received the help of an incredible Canine Assistants service dog.

The matching process for Sean and his dog, Spirit, was incredibly emotional. Sean says they bonded in less than a minute and completely fell in love in just two days. For Sean, Spirit isn’t just a dog, she’s a friend and companion who helps him with stress and functional things in life. Their bond has grown to be a symbiotic relationship with a deep emotional connection.

With Spirit by his side, Sean is eager to take on whatever’s next in life. He’s interested in studying neuroscience and hopes to discover medical breakthroughs to help others with spinal injuries.

Check out Tim’s story

See Tim’s journey of finding a lovable and trusted companion in his Canine Assistants service dog.