By Anna Clowney, 6th Grader at St. Ann & Journalism Club Member
When St. Ann Catholic School in Bartlett opened its doors for the 2012-2013 school year it welcomed a rather unusual newcomer. Teague is not like the other students. He is a specially trained service dog who actually comes to school to work.
Jayla Dorsey is a first grader at St Ann and has type 1 diabetes. Teague is a Medical Alert Service Dog trained to alert Jayla or an adult when her blood sugar is too high or too low. When this happens Teague may nudge her, lick her, or get on her lap. This lets Jayla know that she needs to have her sugar checked. Teague is a very important part of Jayla’s life.
Dogs like Teague are trained to assist diabetics in managing their insulin therapy. They are scent-trained to recognize the chemical changes in blood sugar so they can alert their owner prior to the onset of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia (severe low or high blood sugar).
Teague is a 15-month-old dog that was trained at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility in Kansas where a group of inmates in a special group taught him to listen very well and obey rules. This special program allowed Teague to be an assistance dog. Teague also went to pre-school with a foster family where he learned manners, obedience, and socialization.
A few years after Jayla was diagnosed with diabetes her parents learned about the assistance dogs and knew this type of program would benefit their daughter. Teague came to Memphis in June 2012 to live with Jayla and her family. Jayla says she liked the idea of getting a dog. He goes to school with Jayla every day. He sits with her in class. He also goes with her to lunch, recess, and any other classes. Jayla and the students are not allowed to play with Teague in school. Playing would distract him from his work. Jayla says he does not work all the time because when he is at home he does have playtime.
When asked if Teague likes coming to school she says, not very much. ” He doesn’t like to wear his harness,” Jayla says. She says she thinks it’s really cool that she can take a dog to school every day.
Jayla’s teacher says she loves having a dog in her class.
When asked about Teague’s behavior Sister Connie smiled and said, “He is the best in my class.” Sister, an avid Notre Dame fan, adds that he is like one of their classmates. “It has been a gift to have Teague in my classroom. He’s a gift to all of us. He marches with our Notre Dame fight song. He’s a true fighting Irish man.”
Principle Croxdale said she loves having Teague here because she’s a dog lover. “We all just want to hug him,” she says. She thinks it’s important to allow this type of service dog at St. Ann because Jayla needs him. He needs her to be healthy and everybody knows he’s a working dog Croxdale says. ” I think it’s amazing when he puts he’s paws on her knees and looks at her in the face then she knows she needs her medicine.”
St Ann is one of two schools in Shelby County that is participating in this type of program. For more information on assistance dogs contact CARES, Inc. at www.caresks.com or 800-498-1077. You can also find information at www.ada.gov or call 800-498-1077.