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'He'll have Rocky, always'

Make-A-Wish Oregon brings a black Lab puppy into the arms of 11-year-old Marshall Jacobson


SUBMITTED PHOTO: CAMERON BROWNE  - Marshall Jacobson, 11, gets a kiss from Rocky, who is cradled in the arms of Marshalls sister, Daisha.It seems simple, a boy and his dog.

But Marshall Jacobson and his 10-week-old black Lab, Rocky Gareth Jacobson, are so much more than that. Rocky is a dream come true for a child who needed something special.

Marshall, who says he’s really 12 since his birthday on Oct. 2 is nearly here, was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease this past February. Though he has a little trouble clearly verbalizing his thoughts, his mom, Cara Jacobson, says that for several years he’s been longing for a dog and wanted to name him Rocky.

Make-A-Wish Oregon brought that fantasy to life, and Banfield Pet Hospital in Lake Oswego has been helping out, too.

SUBMITTED PHOTO: CAMERON BROWNE - Marshall Jacobson plays with his new pal, Rocky, a gift from Make-A-Wish Oregon. Marshall walked his pooch down the red carpet for Rocky's first vet visit Saturday at Banfield Pet Hospital in Lake Oswego.Make-A-Wish Oregon brought Rocky, a future service dog, to the Jacobson home last week. The organization supports children in Oregon and Clark County, Wash., who have been diagnosed with life-threatening, but not necessarily fatal, medical conditions — and it doesn’t turn down a wish from any eligible child, ages 2½ to 18.

Marshall’s mother reached out to the organization to help her son.

“When kids deal with a terminal illness and families deal with it, you lose a lot of things, and getting Rocky was like getting a new family member, so you’re gaining something,” says Cara Jacobson, a 40-year-old Milwaukie resident. “When you’re experiencing a lot of loss, to be also gaining blessings, to be gaining other beauty in your life, it’s beautiful, and it makes it so we can survive and stay positive and move forward.”

The family is going through a lot this year. Juvenile onset is rare for Huntington’s disease, a degenerative, incurable neurological disorder. HD is also genetic. Marshall’s father, Kyle Jacobson, died in June of Huntington’s, which for him had a mid-life onset. He was 41.

Cara Jacobson says as her husband got sicker, his world got smaller, and he couldn’t leave the house to visit his family and friends. Many of them “had a hard time seeing him suffer, so they didn’t come around anymore,” she said.

She’s glad Marshall will have a faithful companion from now on.

“He’ll have Rocky, always, someone with him all the time, someone who can be a friend to him always,” she says. “So I’m excited for him to have that.”SUBMITTED PHOTO: JOHN RODLI - Cara Jacobson holds up a new puppy and future service dog bound for the arms of her son, Marshall, who met his companion for the first time last week.

The idea of a service dog is perfect for Marshall, but not part of his initial dog dream. At first he was interested in bringing home a Bullmastiff, a German shepherd, a Bloodhound and a Husky, one of which would be named James and one, of course, Rocky. But a request for four large dogs wasn’t one his mother was eager to fulfill.

“I don’t know if Make-A-Wish would have done it, but there was no way I could handle four dogs,” Cara Jacobson says.

A cuddly Lab puppy is perfect for the family and her son, she says.

Marshall just moved from Oregon City to Milwaukie with his mom and four siblings to live with his maternal grandparents. The young man now is assisting in a two-year service dog certification training for Rocky at All is Pawsible Service Dog School, courtesy of Make-A-Wish Oregon, which also provided $500 worth of dog food and supplies.

Marshall says he is happy and excited. And so far, his favorite thing is playing fetch with his new pal. But what happens when Rocky needs medical care? SUBMITTED PHOTO: CAMERON BROWN - Banfield Pet Hospital veterinarian Christopher Ryan and vet assistant Sherri Mitchell hold Rocky while Marshall listens to his new pup's heart during Rocky's first vet visit last Saturday at Banfield's Lake Oswego location.

“Make-A-Wish Oregon reached out to Banfield for its help in providing Rocky a healthy start in life,” says Tracey Lam, Make-A-Wish Oregon’s public relations and communications manager.

Banfield Pet Hospital is providing an Optimum Wellness Plan, which includes annual preventive care, such as exams, vaccines and more. Rocky’s first vet visit was a celebration last Saturday at the Banfield in Lake Oswego, where veterinarian Christopher Ryan gave the pooch a checkup.

“Rocky looks fantastic,” Ryan says. “Rocky is an unusually even-tempered puppy. He is a healthy, energetic but attentive black Labrador retriever, and his first medical exam could not have gone any smoother.

“It’s really nice when we get the opportunity to give back to the community, especially for an organization like Make-A-Wish,” Ryan says. “You could tell from the entire staff that they were really excited and enthusiastic to be playing even a small role in Rocky’s first visit to the vet.”

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Rocky gazes sleepily into the trees, and he's 'an unusually even-tempered puppy,' says Banfield vet Christopher Ryan.Marshall was excited at the event, too, walking his dog in circles for everyone to see. He is taking his job as Rocky’s owner seriously, while also reveling in the delight that only a soft-eared, doe-eyed baby canine can deliver.

“We’re first-time puppy owners, so we’re having a lot of fun,” Cara Jacobson says.

Family and friends have been snapping lots of photos of Marshall and Rocky, and those pictures do tell part of the story about a boy who loves his dog. But they might not show how much Rocky means to Marshall and they also might not show how much and how many people love them both.

“We are incredibly grateful, and I realize there was probably numerous people who were involved who put in a lot of hours behind the scenes,” Cara Jacobson says. “It really makes a difference when people give a little or give a lot.

“We get to enjoy the puppy,” she says, “but we also get to enjoy how the puppy will expand and enrich my son’s life even more. I’m trying to thank everyone who was involved in any way.”

Contact Jillian Daley at 503-636-1281 ext. 109 or

jdaley@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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