CANINES ON CAMPUS

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By University of Utah Communications

Two years ago, the day after Sydney Groesbeck took the GRE exam and was accepted into graduate school at the University of Utah to earn her master’s degree in public policy, she began another type of journey—living with Type 1 diabetes. Groesbeck is making the necessary adjustments, and by her side, is her loyal companion: A 6-month-old black Labrador retriever service dog named Theo.

Theo is a specially trained diabetic alert service dog. At eight-weeks old, Theo was able to detect if Groesbeck’s blood sugars were out of a safe range. He alerts her by pawing her right leg or hand if her blood sugars are too high and her left leg or hand if they are too low.

Groesbeck wears a continuous glucose monitor, but there are times when there is a lag in data being transmitted, and Theo alerts her every time.

“Theo gives me a sense of security, and I trust he’s going to alert me even when technology fails,” she says.

The University of Utah policy governing animals on campus aims to ensure service animals, which have gone through rigorous training to assist their handlers, are able to focus and perform their tasks without interference. Therefore, pets and other animals are not permitted inside university buildings. New signage appeared on many university buildings this fall to remind community members of the importance of supporting service-animals in accomplishing their work.

“It is hard enough to be a graduate student, but it’s even harder when you are battling a chronic illness 24/7,” Groesbeck said.

Because of her new situation, Groesbeck has found a passion in health care, and has since shifted her academic focus to healthcare policy.

More information about service animals on campus is available here.