Dogs are not simply animals, but more like friends and family. Especially for those who rely on service dogs to help them get through the day. One Virginia high school student’s service dog found himself in the yearbook head shot section, right next to his owner.
Andrew Schalk, who has Type 1 diabetes, uses Alpha (his black Labrador Retriever) to alert him when his blood sugar levels are off. Alpha does so by placing his paw on Andrew when the levels are too high or too low.
Andrew said, “He lets me know my blood sugar is fluctuating through smell anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes before I even know anything is wrong.” Talk about man’s best friend!
When Schalk went to have his school photo taken for the Stafford High School yearbook, it was a no brainer for the school staff to add in Alpha as well!
When Stafford High School students flip through the yearbook for the first time, they get to page 220 and gasp with surprise, “It’s Alpha!”
Grace Fuller, a 17-year-old junior who is on the yearbook staff, featured Alpha in a small profile in last year’s annual. As she sorted through this year’s student headshots, a photo of Alpha popped up and she knew it needed to be included.
“AJ has always talked about how much he liked having Alpha at school, and he is here all the time—we see him in class and in the hallways,” she said. “He is a part of this school now.”
A Stafford student tweeted about Alpha’s inclusion in the yearbook, and that post was shared thousands of times and prompted a Buzzfeed story on Wednesday that has been shared widely on social media.
Schalk started bringing his service dog to school with him last year. At first, he would take him only one day a week to get him acclimated to the new environment. Now, Alpha goes everywhere with him, including on the bus and to class.
When Alpha first started coming to school, Schalk observed many students turning their heads and saying, “Wait, is that a dog?” But, over the past few months, the unfamiliarity has faded, and most of the students recognize him now.
Fortunately, everyone has been extremely accepting of the service dog and are actually used to seeing him now, even though it was a bit of a shock in the beginning.
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