In the high school yearbook, the black Labrador peers up from the bottom half of his picture, all lovable, big eyes. It’s an honor that Alpha, a service dog, earned after years at the side of his owner, junior A.J. Schalk. Alpha has been assisting A.J. since the dog was four months old. A.J. has diabetes, and Alpha sits in class with him every day and alerts him when his blood sugar is too low. “The amazing thing about Alpha is that he knows 20 to 40 minutes before my blood sugar actually does go low or high due to his amazing sense of smell,” he said.
“He has become a huge part of my school, coming to my classes with me, and a lot of people know about him,” Schalk said. So he spoke to the people in charge of the yearbook to see if Alpha could be included in the yearbook, and they were 100% supportive.
“I just brought him with me when I got my yearbook picture taken,” Schalk said. “The only thing they changed was the camera height. They just had to lower it a little haha.”
Schalk said it’s important for his community to know that not only is Alpha a “great companion” but also that “he’s saved my life before.” “Service dogs are very important, and Alpha has had a great benefit in my life,” he said. “You wouldn’t think that having a disability is a blessing … but Alpha has turned a disability into a much more positive experience for me.” A.J. said he hopes Alpha gets another photo next year, but this time, in a cap and gown. “Whatever I happen to do after high school, he’s going to be with me,” A.J. said. “So it’s exciting to have him along for the ride.”