As Diana Bloom looked through her yearbook, she noticed something unusual. Sure, there were the standard photos of her classmates, but one student photo stood out from the rest. That's because her classmate, AJ Schalk, had made sure that his service dog, Alpha, made it into the yearbook too.
Bloom took a photo of the page, captioned it, "they put his service dog in the yearbook i'm CRYING," and posted it to Twitter. The tweet quickly went viral, receiving more than 4,000 shares. Evidently, Twitter users also appreciated the tribute to the service dog.
Schalk is a junior at Stafford High School in Fredericksburg, Virginia, who has type I diabetes. Alpha alerts Schalk between 20 and 40 minutes before his blood sugar gets too low or too high. The service dog is trained to smell a subtle scent in Schalk's breath that indicates a change in blood sugar. Then Alpha nudges Schalk so that he can test his blood sugar and get something to eat.
But such training doesn't come cheap. Schalk needed $25,000 to train Alpha. Schalk's parents' friends and coworkers contributed to the cause, and now Alpha accompanies Schalk to school each day. He even has his own student ID card.
Alpha's quite well-known at the school, so Schalk asked the yearbook committee if it would include Alpha in the yearbook. The committee approved the idea, so on picture day, Alpha got his photo taken. The camera height had to be adjusted a bit, but the end result is a great photo that's caught plenty of attention.
According to Schalk, Alpha is a blessing. The dog has turned Schalk's diabetes diagnosis into a more positive experience for the teen than might have been the case otherwise.