They say dogs are a man’s best friend. For one Clarksville Kindergartner, that’s not just a cliché it’s the truth.
5-year-old Sean Armstrong takes his Australian Labradoodle, Phoebe, with him to class every day. But she’s not there to play, she’s at work making sure Sean stays alive.
“She works so that before I smell the peanuts she can so that I won’t die,” Armstrong said.
Phoebe, an Angel Service Dog, is specially trained to sniff out even the smallest traces of peanuts, protecting Armstrong’s life.
“I can’t come to school without her,” Armstrong said. “She checks everything.”
Armstrong’s mom, Samantha, who also happens to be his Kindergarten teacher, says he was diagnosed with a life-threatening peanut allergy, called anaphylaxis, years ago. He can’t eat them, he can’t touch them and he can’t even smell them or he stops breathing.
“It’s terrifying,” Samantha Armstrong said. “You know a lot of people will say, ‘Well, I hope we survive the first week of school.’ And for us it’s I hope we literally survive every day of school. And that is terrifying.”
Armstrong’s family was able to go through the application process and purchase Phoebe, who cost $20,000, earlier this year. Phoebe, moving in to the Armstrong household in February, just months before Sean’s first day of Kindergarten.
“We didn’t know what we were going to do,” Samantha Armstrong said. “He wouldn’t be able to be in school safely without her to find peanuts and protect him.”
“Everything has been so great to having her,” Armstrong’s dad, Scott, said. “She has saved his life multiple times and we’ve only had her since February.”
Samantha Armstrong’s classroom is peanut-free due to his allergy. She said she hopes some day administrators will push for the entire school to go peanut-free.
“We do the best that we can,” Scott Armstrong said. “We scan every room for any obvious signs of peanuts. But you know, we can’t catch everything. [Phoebe] helps us see the unseen. She helps us find the protein of a peanut butter smear. Peanut butter kind of spreads a lot like germs.”
Phoebe will be attending class with Sean every day until he graduates.