School year starts with BC’s first service dog


Nathan Hatch (‘18) and his service dog Sunny join us at Brookfield Central this year. Sunny is the district’s first service dog.

Sarah Patrick

There is someone new 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 Nathan Hatch (‘18), who has a genetic disorder that causes his blood sugar to often be too high or too low. As Nathan’s service dog, Sunny is able to tell when Hatch’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, Hatch 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, many thanks to Sunny’s training and abilities.
Sunny is a golden retriever-Irish setter mix. He is a teenage dog, and learning, so Nathan is still accompanied by an adult most times. As Sunny gets older, however, Hatch 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 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 “deep training,” during which Peoples would work with Sunny several times a day to train him in basic obedience, and also to ascertain Hatch’s blood sugar simply from his smell. To teach Sunny how to distinguish Hatch’s blood sugar, Hatch 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.” This allowed Sunny to learn the smell of Hatch’s blood sugar.
Peoples came to work with Hatch for three days about one month before Hatch received Sunny, covering the basics of having a service dog, and also spent one day at school with Hatch and Sunny together to teach both how to navigate around and through the brand new environment.
While at school, Sunny is “working,” or monitoring Hatch and should not be approached or touched by other students. Hatch says others are not even supposed to talk to Sunny while he is working. Once at home, Sunny is no longer working and behaves more like a regular dog. At first, Hatch received many questions about Sunny, but now that it has been longer than a year, most of his classmates are used to seeing him and Sunny around.
Sunny goes everywhere with Hatch, and, several times, Hatch says he has been told that he cannot bring Sunny somewhere with him. However, it is illegal to deny entry to a service dog, so Sunny is allowed to be with Hatch. 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. BC is happy to go to school with you both.