For many families, a dog serves the purpose of a companion, but for Mira Costa teacher Denise Weber, her dog could save her life as well.
Weber is an Algebra 1 and Geometry teacher at Costa and has been teaching here for four years. She has a medical condition which allows her to have a female service dog in her classroom at all times. Her service dog, Lady, will alert her if she is going to have a seizure.
“[The service dog] allows me to have the freedoms I have, to live a regular life,” Weber said. “I am not worried when going places while still having my medical issue.”
Lady is two years old, and Weber has owned her for most of the dog’s life. Lady was born with the ability to sense when people in general are going to have a seizure. After working as a team with Weber, it became evident that Lady was able to sense oncoming seizures in Weber. The dog alerts her by nudging and licking her aggressively. This allows Weber to take medication to prevent it. In addition, Lady was trained in other basics in regards to how to behave correctly in public and be obedient.
“I’ve never seen Mrs. Weber have a seizure,” Weber’s Algebra 1 student and Costa freshman Celeste Almendariz said. “If that ever happened, I think the whole class would try as hard as they could to help her.”
Lady wears a vest that marks that she is a service dog while she is working at school. During the school day, Lady lays down near Weber’s desk on a dog bed or follows Weber around. At home, Lady is a family dog and gets to take off her service dog vest.
“[The vest] is not required by law or ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), it’s just so she knows when she’s working,” Weber said. “It helps her know she’s on the job. But also, it makes it easier to go into public, then people know she’s a working dog versus your average pet dog.”
Having the service dog in the class does not affect Weber’s teaching, Weber said. Weber’s students like to see the dog and wish they could touch and pet her, but this would distract Lady from focusing on keeping track of Weber’s medical issue, Weber said.
“I’ve never had a teacher with a dog before in the classroom so it’s different,” Almendariz said. “I don’t mind the dog being there, and it helps Mrs. Weber so I’m happy about it. I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to Mrs. Weber and it’s nice to know she is there to protect her.”
As a service dog, Lady gets taken almost everywhere with Weber in order to protect her and prevent Weber from having seizures. Service dogs like Lady are allowed in most places, except sterile places like the hospital, the Intensive Care Unit, or where surgeries are taking place. Lady has been with Weber to places most dogs don’t go to, such as Disneyland on many occasions, on a cruise, and the Bahamas.
“It can be challenging when people question her,” Weber said. “I might not go certain places with her just because it’s more challenging, but that’s more of a rarity than a commonality. For example, she’ll go to the grocery store, she’ll go out to eat with us, she’ll go pretty much everywhere.”
A video showing Mira Costa teacher Denise Weber’s service dog, Lady, doing various activities in her classroom on June 5th. Lady stays with Weber at all times so she can assist her by detecting seizures early.