Eight-year-old Amber is invaluable around the Knight house. She teaches her canine siblings good behavior, help cleans up messes and, most importantly, is a service companion to her human partner, Jack. The Golden Retriever is always by Jack’s side to help with anything he needs, including retrieving out-of-reach items and calling elevators. Since graduating at the top of her class at Georgia’s Canine Assistants school, she has assisted Jack, 14, in navigating everyday life—including the always-difficult transition from elementary school to Mandalay Middle School.
Because of her dedication and hard work, Milk-Bone recently selected the Westminster pup as one of their 2015 Dogs Who Changed the World. While Amber now has a trading card in her likeness, local notoriety, and some extra love at home, the fame certainly hasn’t gone to her head. We sat down with pet-parent Angela Knight to chat about how Amber makes her son’s life easier and have her translate a bit for her pooch.
5280: How did Amber come into your lives?
Angela Knight: When Jack was younger, we were looking for the best of the best in service dog companies and we found Canine Assistants in Georgia. We always joke that the application is like trying to buy a home, but when you’re buying a home they don’t want quite as much information. The application was 13 pages long!
How did she get on the list of Dogs Who Changed the World?
Amber was actually nominated by some staff at Canine Assistance because she’s been such an amazing dog. With [Jack] having such a hard transition to middle school, he wouldn’t have made it without Amber. She’s had a pretty traumatic time as a service dog—trips to DisneyWorld and cruises. It’s been tough.
Tell us a little about how Amber contributes to your lives.
When you’re in a wheelchair, sometimes you feel limited and she helps with that. This isn’t why you get a service animal, but everybody at school knows [Jack] and Amber, and she’s his liaison. People see these two redheads instead of a piece of equipment.
How is Amber handling her newfound fame?
She’s totally oblivious. She continues to be the serious worker she is, but at the end of the day she might expect a little extra praise. We have been sneaking her quite a few extra Milk-Bones.
What’s Amber’s guilty pleasure?
Stealing her little brother’s puppy food. That’s what we have to watch her on!
What is Amber’s favorite part of her job?
Probably cleaning Jack’s face or cleaning up around him at the dinner table! But really, she loves being a part of the family. She doesn’t like when he’s doing adaptive skiing because she has to wait in the condo, but she likes going out on all our adventures. We’re working on hopefully the south of France this summer, which is exciting because she’s such a good ambassador. Oftentimes, people think Amber works all the time and never has time off to play, but she really does. She wrestles and plays with our other dogs and plays ball with Jack. When her pack is off, she’s a part of the family, but she’s happiest when she’s working.