A fluffy friendly freshman

Paisley, a young golden retriever, is going to Port High with senior Ana Pyzyk as a potential lifesaver
Mitch Maersch
Ozaukee Press Reporter

For many, the nudge of a fluffy and friendly golden retriever is a sign of loving affection, returned with smiles and pets.

For Ana Pyzyk, it could save her life.

Pyzyk, a Port Washington High School senior, has had type 1 diabetes since she was 8.

In May, she got Paisley, an 8-week old golden, and immediately began training her to detect low blood sugar and to behave in public places.

Paisley “got dressed” in her service dog vest the day after she came home and always wears it when she and Ana leave the house.

“She knows that when her vest is on she’s going somewhere.” Ana’s mother Brigitte said. “She behaves differently.”

“She knows she has to sit and walk nice,” Ana said.

To detect blood sugar, Ana would swab her mouth with gauze pads and have Paisley sniff them. Now, she blows in her face and Paisley can recognize the condition by Ana’s breath. She recently nudged her for the first time.

Samples of Ana’s swabs have been put under Paisely’s food so it would become a positive experience for her.

If she detects low blood sugar, Paisley’s next step is to retrieve a glucose meter. Ana’s father Jeffery also has diabetes, so meters are plentiful and Paisley proved to be a quick learner.

“She grabs pretty much every meter in the house,” Brigitte said.

But, Ana said, “She doesn’t always want to give it back to you.”

If Ana’s sugar levels are low, Paisley is to get glucose tabs or juice boxes for Ana. Eventually, the puppy will be trained to provide physical support if Ana faints and to detect high blood sugar, which Brigitte said is just as dangerous as low.

Paisley has been through basic obedience training and earned a American Kennel Club S.T.A.R. status and goes to Custom Canines Service Dog Academy twice a month for more advanced training.

Next year, Paisley will go to college with Ana. It will be the first time away from her parents, and Brigitte said she doesn’t want Ana’s roommate to have to care for Ana if her blood sugar drops.

Ana is considering a business law major and Spanish minor and has visited the University of Kentucky, which welcomes service dogs.

Before that, Paisley is getting experience in all sorts of public settings. She has never had an accident and does not bark.

At restaurants, Paisley has to sit under a table. She will occasionally do a slow crawl to take a peek at what’s going on, or nudge Ana’s leg when she would like something to eat.

“Ana’s very business-like with her,” Brigitte said. “I’m probably more wimpy. I’m like the dog grandma.”

The fact that Paisley is adorable with loving brown eyes and a silky smooth coat and always a cheerful disposition can make things difficult.

“It’s hard to get mad at her sometimes,” Ana said.

Ana’s father does not demand anything of the family’s new puppy. He comes home from work and asks, “Where’s my baby?” Brigitte said.

Paisley knows when she is in the Starbucks drive-through and, if Ana is driving, will crawl on her lap to get her favorite treat, a small cup of whipped cream for dogs called puppicinos.

While most businesses welcome Paisley — some even offer to get her water — some people aren’t as thrilled.

“You get the dirty looks,” Ana said.

“I tell people don’t think about the dogs, think about the person,” Brigitte said.

At a restaurant near the family cottage, Paisley was asked to leave, but that was the only time.

Brigitte said there are several misconceptions about service dogs in public.

“A lot of people ask for papers, and there are no papers,” she said.

Service dogs aren’t required to go through a formal certification process, but Brigitte said it’s against the law to claim a dog is a service dog when it is not.

“The line is getting blurred between service dogs and comfort dogs,” she said. “Those people (who misrepresent their dogs) are making it very difficult for service dogs.”

Businesses are allowed to ask if someone’s dog is a service dog and what service it provides, and “Ana is more than willing to share and talk to people,” Brigitte said, but added she has a right to privacy when it comes to the general public.

One of the issues, she said, is that service dogs aren’t required to wear vests in public. The family determined that Paisley will always wear her vest in public.

One challenge in public is that people want to pet Paisley. “I’m not going to let every person in a restaurant pet her,” Ana said, adding running errands can be difficult when she is getting stopped all the time.

“She loves kids. That’s a challenge.”

Paisley already knows a lot of tricks, including touch, nudge, high five, lie down, crawl and spin.

She only barks when she gets frustrated or when she wants to show off an object she has obtained, such as the TV remote.

The Pyzyks got the service dog idea from Ana’s best friend, Grafton High School senior Mya Masse, who is training a service dog for a veteran.

Fully trained dogs can cost more than $30,000, Brigitte said, and she has heard stories of subpar training.

The Pyzyks liked that they got to be part of the training process.

Paisley came from Sun-Golden Kennels in Edgerton. The family got to visit the puppies but the breeder picked out one for Ana. The puppy had to be confident, not frightened by loud noises and persistent.

“When she does alert Ana, she can’t give up,” Brigitte said.

That can be a challenge for goldens, who are “people pleasers.” When one thing doesn’t appease their human, they will try something else, Brigitte said.

Paisley attended one day of school last May and the plan is for her to go a few days per week starting in October, since Paisley isn’t fully trained yet.

The family met with school administrators last week to discuss a plan for Paisley.

“We’re kind of the guinea pigs,” Brigitte said. “They’re helping us and we’re helping them.”

To follow Paisley online, search Instagram for a.pup.named.paisley.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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