Leave this job to the dogs

Allyson Smith brings her service dog, Lennon, with her everywhere on campus to ensure her blood sugar levels stay normal. Pat Kwiatkowski/The Buzz.

Allyson Smith brings her service dog, Lennon, with her everywhere on campus to ensure her blood sugar levels stay normal. Pat Kwiatkowski/The Buzz.

By Pat Kwiatkowski

November has always been known for the month of fall, Thanksgiving, and Black Friday. However, not many realize that it is also a month about health awareness, specifically diabetes.

For those who might be unfamiliar with the disease, diabetes is when a person has high blood sugar. This can be a result of the body not being able to produce enough insulin, which helps absorb the sugar in blood, or the body resisting the insulin being produced.

These are split into two types of diabetes. There is Type 1, which is often found in children. It can appear suddenly and is often inherited from the parents of the child. Type 2, which is mostly found in adults, takes time to develop and is based on lifestyle choices and factors.

Those that have either types will require insulin to be injected into their body to balance blood sugar levels, though Type 2 will require more medication to maintain.

St. Ambrose student Allyson Smith  is a senior studying forensic psychology. When she was young, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Since then, she has had to make sure to keep an eye on her blood sugar levels throughout each day.

“I check my blood sugar about 8-10 times a day,” Smith stated. “I use an insulin pump with me when I need to use it.”

As of last year, Smith has gotten more help in keeping up with her health. Many people around campus would notice her bringing it with her. Smith has a service dog: a black Labrador named Lennon. She comes with Smith to keep an eye on her blood sugar level through her sense of smell.

“If my blood sugar level is high (above 180), then she would smell this fruity scent,” Smith stated. “If it was low (below 180), then she would smell something like nail polish. When she lets me know to check, I give her a small treat as a reward.”

It took time for Smith to get a service dog. After comparing different organizations that have these dogs, she had to wait for months before she got one.

Even after getting Lennon, the dog still required training over several weeks. St. Ambrose has been supportive of this, making sure that any problems would be balanced out in the community.

Ryan Saddler, Director of the Student Disability Services, has started helping students who need accommodations on campus.

“She had to go through the office for approval [for the service dog],” Saddler stated. “We also discussed expectations on the services that needed to be followed. We’re trying to work for equality [amongst the students].”

Smith has been doing well on campus. Many of the students have accepted Lennon in their halls and classrooms, knowing to make sure not to distract her by scratching her fur. Still, it does show how much diabetes can affect a person’s life.

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