Service dog Zeek wears PPE to a chemistry lab to accompany a student.
Julia Woolman leans over to Zeek, the service dog who accompanies her
to a lab.
Zeek wears booties to protect his feet.
A sign on the door brings attention to the presence of a service dog.
Zeek rests on a mat when he accompanies Julia Woolman to a lab.
When Julia Woolman, who is studying pre-veterinary medicine, is
working in a laboratory, her service animal, Zeek, follows safety
protocols that include wearing personal protective equipment.
The protocols are part of a university process where representatives
from Disability Support
Resources worked with laboratory coordinators to ensure Zeek can
safely accompany Woolman in the lab.
"The university's safety program is dedicated to providing a
safe laboratory environment to Grand Valley’s employees, students and
visitors," said Shontaye Witcher, DSR senior director. "The
guidelines ensure safe lab practices and training programs to keep
everyone safe by reducing the hazards and minimizing the risk of
injury or illness."
Witcher noted research laboratories are not public spaces, so
exemptions are needed for service animals, which can carry natural
organisms that can negatively affect research outcomes. In addition,
she said, officials must ensure the safety of the dogs or miniature
horses, as they could face potential harm because of chemicals or
organisms in use. They are working animals, not pets nor emotional
support animals, she said.
Woolman said that Zeek, a Chesapeake Bay and Labrador retriever,
assists her with the effects of the sleep disorder idiopathic
hypersomnia with sleep inertia. Woolman said the condition causes
exhaustion and feeling chronically sleep deprived, along with needing
extra stimulus to wake up from sleep, among other effects.
Zeek is trained to detect Woolman's alarm and persistently nudge her
awake, she said. He also is trained to "boop" her if she
nods off, such as in class, and escalate to pawing at her if necessary.
"I'm forever grateful for this dog," Woolman said of Zeek,
whom she rescued from an animal shelter before he went through
training. "If not for him, I would not be living on my own."
While in the lab, Zeek wears PPE such as booties, a coat and
"Doggles," which are goggles made specifically for dogs,
said Mary Jo Smith, general chemistry laboratory instructional
coordinator. He also is trained to lie on a specific mat while Woolman
works; the mat is stored when Woolman is not there.
"By reducing the risks for Zeek we are protecting Julia,"
Smith said. "She has spent a lot of time training with Zeek and
he is very important to her independence."
Woolman said she is grateful for the work done to ensure Zeek can
join her in the lab. "It has been very smooth. DSR has been
phenomenal," she said.