St Joseph’s School has welcomed a new student helper who will be assisting one of its students on a regular basis - a helper of the canine variety.
Diabetty, or Betty for short, is a two-year-old flat coat retriever trained to detect the blood glucose levels of year 5 student Cooper Puckridge, who lives with type 1 diabetes.
After making intermittent visits during the past year as she was being trained, Betty last week started going to school with Cooper on a regular basis.
Deputy principal Karen Browne said the school made arrangements for Betty to go to school, including risk assessments and approvals.
“We’ve educated the school community why she was there and what was needed to make it successful,” she said.
“She’s a beautiful dog and I think everyone is amazed with how clever she is and how well trained she is to detect his sugar levels.”
The Puckridge family have been training Betty since she arrived in 2015 to detect via smell when Cooper’s blood glucose levels are off and then alert his parents or others.
Cooper’s mother Jodie Puckridge said Betty had been very good at her job.
“I’d say her success rate would be around the 90 to 95 per cent,” she said.
The school community has welcomed Betty with open arms, however students have been warned not to interact with her when she is wearing her green vest at school.
Mrs Puckridge said it was similar to a guide dog or working dog in that it represented Betty was in working mode and needed to focus on her role, which was helping Cooper.
She said the school was very supportive toward helping Cooper with his condition.
“From the day Cooper was diagnosed the school’s gone out of their way to learn about his condition and to support him in a really, really good way,” she said.
“Now with Diabetty starting school they’ve been so supportive.
“It’s been really good and it makes this job a lot easier for us as well.”
The Puckridge family has been happy with Betty’s services and Cooper said he loved having her around.
“She’s like a shadow,” he said.