A teen who struggles with anxiety didn’t want to miss her senior prom, so she brought along her service dog.
Claire, 18 (who declined to provide her last name for privacy reasons), suffers from anxiety-derived panic episodes and to help her cope, she takes her medical alert dog, a 2-year-old golden retriever named Percie, everywhere.
“Percie can sense when I’m going to have an episode because he detects changes in my cortisol levels and heart rate, and when I’m feeling nauseous,” Claire tells Yahoo Style, adding that she took classes in order to train Percie herself when he was 8-weeks-old, to better bond with the dog.
Golden retrievers are popular medical alert dogs because they’re intelligent, have even temperaments, and are eager to please. When Percie senses that Claire is about to have an episode, she nudges or paws her owner, then lies on her legs or on specific pressure points that help to alleviate symptoms. “Percie is also trained to call for help if I can’t,” says Claire.
When Claire’s June 6th prom rolled around, taking Percie was a no-brainer — after all, she had attended class during Claire’s last semester in high school and she’ll tag along to college in upstate New York in the fall. “I was a little nervous about Percie being a burden on prom night but my friends assured me that she was welcome,” says Claire.
Ditto for Claire’s boyfriend of two years, who graciously welcomed the dog on their date. “My boyfriend is so supportive,” says Claire. “I met him around the same time I got Percie so he’s seen how my health has improved with her in my life.”
Wearing a string of red roses around his neck (to match the color of Claire’s dress), Percie posed for pre-prom photos with Claire and her friends and even pulled his weight on the dance floor, sticking by Claire’s side and “dancing” with her when Claire held her front paws. “It felt like dancing with a small child,” she says.
About an hour-and-a-half into the night, Claire experienced a severe episode so her mother came to pick her up, but the night was still memorable with Percie by her side.
“Having a service dog is a lifestyle,” says Claire. “I have to arrange my entire life around her and it’s a sacrifice, but Percie allows me to have independence.”
Read more on Yahoo Style + Beauty: