GlenOak has a four legged student this year

Jana Walther makes history as her service dog, Graham, is GlenOak’s first service dog


Introductions: Junior Jana Walther plays with her service dog, Graham, at their class. “Every day for the 10 days we were there we had to do a lot of work in training ourselves with the dogs because they were already fully trained. We had to know commands and different things,” Walther said. Eagle photo courtesy of Jana Walther.

In years past, walking in GlenOak’s hallways had been the same, students walking to class, teachers standing outside their doors, and occasionally a couple fights. This year, however, there is a new addition to the student body walking on fours throughout the halls. This addition’s name is Graham. 

Graham is junior Jana Walther’s service dog. Graham’s job is to help her with her epilepsy. He is also GlenOaks first service dog. This year, Walther has been bringing Graham to school, but there have been plenty of ups and downs with Walthers journey with Graham. 

When Walther was first diagnosed with epilepsy her mom brainstormed what could help Walther apart from medications, which led to talks of a service dog. Service dogs, however, are not cheap. 

“My mom started looking for different places and we found 4 Paws For Ability and we had to raise $17,000 dollars, which took about a year,” Walther said. 

The price of Graham was just the start of the long and challenging journey.

 After the fundraising was done Walther was placed with Graham and it was time to start 10 days worth of classes. 

“Every day for the 10 days we were there we had to do a lot of work in training ourselves with the dogs because they were already fully trained. We had to know commands and different things,” Walther said. “If I pretended to have a seizure or something or an anxiety attack he would help and everytime we did that it made me feel so much safer knowing that he would be able to help me.”

While Graham was already fully trained when Walther met him, there have been troubles in their training together. 

“I had a lot of anxiety attacks during the entire trip because we had to stay in a hotel for 10 days. That was stressful and trying to learn and remember the commands and the signals and trying to get him to listen to me and create that bond that needs to be made because he would start bonding to my great-grandma, my mom, my sister, and then he would bond with me and then decide to bond with different people,” Walther said. 

Walther also had trouble when they started to do training outside as Graham likes to chase anything that moves. 

Graham, however, was not the only one that needed training. Walther had to learn different commands that included sit, stand, down, jump, off, bark, nuzzle, over and place. Bark, nuzzle, over and place are more specific to Walther. 

“Bark, so he can alert. If I were to have a seizure he would be able to alert and he’ll do it over and over again and if no one comes he will dart to go and try to find someone,” Walther said. “Nuzzle, if I have my arms crossed and I’m sitting down having an anxiety or panic attack what he’ll do is nuzzle his way through my arms and shove his head into me and break my arms open and then he will lay across my lap to try to get my attention on him. Place, where he has to lay on a mat and just stay there so I can walk around and he won’t follow me because there’s certain times I need to move around and he can’t be right there.”

In the short time the two have been together, Graham has already been able to help and has alerted to two seizures the day before they even happened. 

“Usually he alerts a day before. The first time was right after graduation so I only knew him for 9 days and I was still getting used to his behaviors and everything,” Walther said. 

She later went on to talk about how he will alert her by licking, sniffing and doing weird behaviors by her wrists, ankles, neck, and back of her knees. 

The start of this year was nerve wracking for Walther as walking in with a dog is not a common sight to see. 

“At first I was absolutely terrified because I was afraid of what people were going to think. Then I kind of just went, you know what, let’s do this. I know people are going to question and some people might be jerks about it but who cares,” Walther said. 

Graham has turned out to be a positive addition as he brings life to GlenOak. 

“He just brings life to the class. Even though we aren’t just focusing on him all the time and we’re still doing stuff and working, just having him there and occasionally looking over at him makes everyone so much happier,” Walther said. 

While Graham is always working to ensure Walthers safety, he is not a robot and is still able to be a regular dog when he is home. 

“Before I got him I didn’t know what he would be like and I kind of thought of him as a robot just constantly working, but no he’s still a dog, I still play with him. I let him run outside,” Walther said. 

With Graham being at GlenOak it is very important to know how to treat him. 

“People should not pet him. People can smile at him, they can say hi, but they cannot pet,” Walther said. 

Not petting Graham ensures he is focused on Walther and her safety. 

“I want people to treat him like another student,” Walther said.