BOUNTIFUL -- When Matthew Allen goes to college in a few years, he will be accompanied by a friend who will make his daily life easier. That friend will pick up things that were dropped on the floor, remove clothing items, such as coat and socks, open drawers and even hit the buttons on the elevator.
Sixteen-year-old Matthew was born with Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive, genetic disorder causing his muscles to weaken, and live life in a wheelchair.
But his life will change greatly when he gets his service dog.
"I'm pretty excited, I don't know how else to say it," he said.
His mother, Monica, said that statement from the soft-spoken Matthew says it all.
"That's a pretty big statement for him, excitement-wise," Monica said. "He has an engineering, very logical mind, so that's pretty exciting for him."
Allen and his family, who live in Clinton, met Friday with a representative from Canine Assistants at the Smith's Market in Bountiful.
Canine Assistants is a nonprofit organization that trains and provides service dogs to enhance and improve the lives of children and adults who have physical disabilities, seizure conditions or other special needs.
Canine Assistants has placed about 930 dogs since 1991, and Smith's Food & Drug has assisted in 12 of those.
While he did not receive his dog Friday, at least he knows it is coming.
Because of a long waiting list, Matthew and his parents will not get to attend the training camp where he will receive his dog until next summer at the earliest.
At the camp, in Milton, Ga., Matthew will be paired with a dog that has been specially trained to help with his needs.
"When they come, the dog is already trained, it's training the recipient that the camp is for," said Lynn Engum, from Canine Assistants. "We start the training when the dogs are 3 days old."
The Allen family also met Barnsley, a 6-year-old golden retriever who showed off some skills that Matthew's service dog will have, such as taking off a coat and picking up a wallet.
Matthew is currently a student at the Northern Utah Academy for Math, Engineering and Science on the Davis campus of Weber State University in Layton.
While he wants to go to college and study aerospace engineering, with Arizona State University and the University of Utah at the top of his wish list, it would be difficult if he were on his own.
At NUAMES, he has an aide who helps out. But such assistance will not be available at college.
"This dog will be a really big helper to fill in those gaps," Monica said.
"He'll be able to go to college without having mom go to college. Matthew relies on people a whole lot, and this will make him more independent and allow him to grow up."
"And give him a companion," said Richard, Matthew's father.
"His whole life is going to change," Engum said. "He'll get greater independence, and the dog will be able to open doors for him."
That will happen in more ways than one.
Engum said that, at college, not only will the dog assist Matthew in everyday activities, but it will also remove barriers between him and his classmates.
Dogs, she said, help everyone relate to one another.
But mostly, Matthew is excited knowing he will have the help he needs to be more on his own.
"It's going to make me a lot more independent, so I can be out on my own without parental help."