The image of adorable (but clearly confused) service dog featured in the Stafford High School’s yearbook has quickly gone viral online while highlighting the incredible bond service animals share with the humans.
As reported by Fredericksburg.com, being that service dog ‘Alpha’ goes to class everyday like any other student, the yearbook staff at Stafford High the decision to feature the four-legged hero was a no brainer being that “He is a part of this school now.”
Alpha, the black labrador is owned by 16-year-old high school junior Andrew “AJ” Schalk who suffers from Type 1 diabetes and has been trained to alert his human companion when his blood sugar levels are too high or low by giving Schalk his paw.
According to Schalk, Alpha has already saved his life multiple times.
Explaining that due to his incredible senses and training, Schalk states that Alpha is enable to alert him when his “blood sugar is fluctuating through smell anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes before I even know anything is wrong.”
But Schalk isn’t the only one that feels Alpha has become part of their life…
As explained by 17-year-old yearbook staffer Grace Fuller, “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… He is a part of this school now.”
Additionally, Schalk states that “I love knowing that we’re having that effect on so many people.”
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.
Schalk said everyone has been very accepting of having a service dog around the school. So, he wasn’t surprised when he and Fuller went to his teachers and school administrators with the idea to include his four-legged friend in the yearbook and they were all for it.
Schalk further stated that having Alpha as a service dog and constant companion has “turned my disability into a positive experience,” and that he “brightens the school atmosphere for all of the students—not just me.”
Good boy Alpha, good boy.