Recent retiree and service dog find “awesome accessibility” at tax office

November 30, 2016 : Mary Ann Luther

When Joel Hook applied for a seasonal job at a Texas tax office last year, he kept his hopes in check. A recent retiree who spent 40 years as a restaurant franchisee, he wanted to stay active and productive. However, Hook – who walks with a cane because of a leg amputation – requires some furry help: a service dog named Grace.

“When Joel came in for an interview, he was apprehensive about the interview because he needed a service dog,” said Amanda Thompson, area manager for H&R Block, who interviewed Hook for a job as a client service professional in Greenville.

Hook needn’t have worried.

“I offered him the job on the spot,” said Thompson. “Joel has a wealth of knowledge about the business world and was a perfect fit for the position he wanted.”

Two for one

When Thompson hired Hook, she got Grace, too. A mixed breed about the size of a collie, Grace generally sat curled up at Hook’s feet behind the front desk – when she wasn’t doing her own job: chasing after pencils and keys that Hook might drop or fetching paperwork from around the office.

Grace even looked the part of a professional: She sported a special vest that says “I’m working” and, like many well-trained service dogs, wore a harness and leash on the job.

“Clients loved Grace,” said Thompson. “Grace is gentle and disciplined and a great ice breaker, especially with kids. They liked to pet her and talk to her, and they learned from Joel that Grace was here to do a job, too.”

A rewarding experience

After tax season ended, Thompson got a surprise: she received an award on behalf of H&R Block from Service Dogs Inc., a nonprofit group that rescues shelter dogs – including Grace – and rigorously trains them to serve people with disabilities.

Presented to Thompson at a ceremony in Austin, the Awesome Accessibility Award honors businesses for making the workplace accessible to people with service dogs.

Looking ahead

But that’s not the end of the story. When tax season was over, Hook told Thompson he wanted to come back. But it might be in a new role: Hook is taking H&R Block’s Income Tax Course (ITC) with hopes of becoming a tax professional next year, says Thompson. “It’s very humbling when someone faces so many challenges but doesn’t let anything stand in the way of a goal,” said Thompson. “Joel was a great asset as a client service professional and I’m confident he’ll be the same if he returns as a tax professional.”

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Mary Ann Luther

Mary Ann Luther

Contributor

How taxes affect everyday life is one of Mary Ann Luther’s favorite subjects. But medicine, insurance, engineering and education are right up there. She’s covered them all as a writer and/or editor for The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma TODAY magazine, GEICO and The Catholic University of America, and as a freelancer for many more. Luther earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from University of Missouri-Columbia. Go, Tigers!

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