Meet BC’s First Furry Friend


There’s a new face at Brookfield Central, and he has four legs and a tail. Sunny is the school’s – in fact, the entire district’s – first service dog. Sunny belongs to freshman Nathan Hatch, who has a genetic disorder causing his blood sugar to often be too high or too low. As Nathan’s service dog, Sunny is able to tell when Nathan’s blood sugar is about to be a problem and warn him before it becomes extreme.

Before getting Sunny a year and a half ago, Nathan had to always be accompanied by someone, often an adult, and had to test his blood sugar much more often. He says that now his life is much simpler, thanks to Sunny’s training and abilities.

Sunny is a golden retriever-Irish setter mix. He is still a teenage dog, and still learning, so Nathan is still accompanied by an adult most times. As Sunny gets older, though, Nathan says he might be able to travel on his own; it will depend upon his own medical condition at the time, if his blood sugar evens out more as he gets older.

Sunny was provided by the National Institute for Diabetic Alert Dogs (NIDAD) and was trained by Ed Peoples. Sunny underwent six months of what is called “deep training,” where Peoples would work with Sunny several times a day to train him in basic obedience, and also being able to tell Nathan’s blood sugar simply from his smell. The rest of the day, Sunny would simply rest. To teach Sunny how to distinguish Nathan’s blood sugar, Nathan said he had to “take…saliva samples and send it to [Peoples], and they put… a cotton ball that had my saliva in it, in… a jar with holes in the top so [Sunny] could smell it, then spin it around on a board full of other jars, and [Sunny] would have to find the one that was mine.” Thus, Sunny learned the smell of Nathan’s blood sugar.

Peoples came to work with Nathan for three days about one month before Nathan received Sunny, covering the basics of having a service dog, and also spent one day at school with Nathan and Sunny together, to teach both how to navigate the new environment.

While at school, Sunny is “working,” or monitoring Nathan, and should not be approached or touched by other students. Nathan says others aren’t even supposed to talk to the dog

while he’s working. Once at home however, Sunny is no longer working, and can behave more like a regular dog. Nathan at first had lots of questions about Sunny, but now that it’s been more than a year, most of Nathan’s classmates are used to seeing him around.

Sunny goes everywhere with Nathan, and more than once, Nathan says he’s been told that he can’t bring Sunny somewhere with him. It is, however, illegal to deny a service dog entry, and Nathan has to be allowed to bring Sunny with him. As Sunny is the district’s first service animal, the school board had to revise district policy to accommodate him.

Welcome to Brookfield Central High School, Nathan and Sunny!