BY SARAH de CRESCENZO / STAFF WRITER FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Vanguard University chemistry Professor John Terhorst applied to Canine Companions for Independence in 2013 at his family’s urging and was later matched with his 2-year-old service dog Yan.
John and Yan gazed deeply into one another’s eyes. Their love was fresh, but it would last.
The two were introduced in February at a two-week retreat in Oceanside.
Leaders warned participants against setting their heart on a match until the end of the retreat, when formal pairs would be announced. But as soon as John and Yan met, they were inseparable. When the retreat ended, John put a leash on the golden-Labrador retriever mix and they went home together.
It might sound like a rash decision, but John had been thinking about Yan – or someone like him – since 2013.
Two years earlier, in his final year of working toward a Ph.D. in chemistry at Yale University, the 27-year-old sustained unexpected damage to his spinal cord during treatment for a congenital vascular malformation. After completing his degree, he moved back to California, where he had grown up, to be with his parents in Irvine.
Terhorst, who began using a wheelchair after the treatment left him disabled, felt little impetus to leave the house. When he did, he sensed people skirting by his wheelchair, discomfited by its presence.
His family suggested a service dog.
At first, John Terhorst, who began teaching chemistry in 2012 at Vanguard University, didn’t immediately buy in.