When a cream-colored Labradoodle runs through campus enthusiastically greeting students, Western senior Cort Anderson trails behind, grinning at his best friend as she puts smiles on people’s faces. Her name is Babes and she is a two-year-old fifth generation Australian Labradoodle.
Babes is more than just a pet, she is Anderson’s companion and service animal. Service animals are trained to help perform tasks for those with disabilities. At Western, service dogs are permitted in university buildings to assist individuals with physical, mental or sensory disabilities.
In the eighth grade Anderson was diagnosed with diabetes. When he moved away from home and came to Western, he decided he wanted to get a service animal.
Anderson met Babes’ litter when they were only two weeks old. He saw Babes and says he instantly felt a connection.
Babes is now trained to react if something happens to Anderson. In an emergency, Babes will alert attention to the situation in order to get Anderson help.
“If anything happens to me, she’s a tag,” Anderson said. “If something happens to me, she is another body people will be aware of if she’s running around.”
Babes is in the process of learning how to be a diabetic service alert dog. Dogs can be trained to detect changes in blood sugar that might be dangerous. Anderson is training Babes to do so by slowly exposing her to samples of his blood. Ultimately, she will be trained to paw or go to Anderson in the event that there is an issue with his blood sugar.
Babes is equipped with a service jacket with contact information in the event of an emergency.
Typically, people are urged not to touch service animals in order to prevent distracting the animals, but Anderson says Babes is great at interacting with people and he encourages the Western community to get to know her.
“She puts smiles on people’s faces and that’s the goal,” Anderson said.
Anderson said that he sometimes encounters people who don’t understand why he needs a service animal, but that for the most part the Western community has been open minded and welcoming to Babes.
“A lot of teachers are really great about it, and they’ll get to know her and realize she’s just like a person,” Anderson said. “She talks a lot with her face. She has great facial expressions. She’s really humanistic.”
Anderson’s roommates say it’s easy to see the strength of their relationship.
“The relationship is all about synchronization. She knows how he is feeling and he knows how she is feeling,” said Adam Bortfeld, Anderson’s roommate. “They’re like a unit in a lot of ways.”