A Texas college student has marked a major milestone by graduating from college, and — as always — her beloved service dog was right by her side.
Four years ago, Taylor Dearman, 26, was forced to drop out of A&M University-Corpus Christi, where she was studying nursing, due to seizures caused by her anxiety.
She decided to move Georgia to be with her parents while trying to figure out what she could do to cope. She then applied for a service dog, and when she met "Skittles," her life completely changed.
“It was so bad that I had to quit school and take a year off,” Dearman said of her anxiety in a school interview. “With [Skittles] I haven’t had a seizure.”
In 2013, Dearman reentered the school and received permission for Skittles to accompany her to class.
"I couldn't do it without Skittles, so she's the one that's really pushed me and helped me get better, she's just my world now," Dearman told KRIS.
She began pursuing a teaching certification as a science in interdisciplinary EC-6 reading generalist.
As a medical alert service dog, Skittles recognizes when Dearman, or even the people around her, experience increased blood pressure, elevated cortisol levels, low blood sugar or emotional distress.
Not only has Skittles helped her through her battles, but also helped Dearman realize her dreams.
“I didn’t realize teaching was something I wanted to pursue until I met Skittles. Since I met her, everything just fell into place,” Dearman said.
Dearman now teaches at Oak Park Elementary as part of her program and Skittles joins her there as well.
“The students know that when she sits in her spot, they leave her alone — unless she comes up to them, which usually means she’s trying to comfort them or she knows they are not feeling well,” Dearman said. “For example, one of our student’s parents passed away last year and Skittles stayed by that student’s side for a whole week. She’s actually been a great behavioral tool in the classroom.”
Walking across the stage with the animal that has helped so much was extremely emotional for Dearman.
“It was surreal,” Dearman said. “I was trying not to cry because the campus was so great. They were so open letting her walk the stage because she’s been through everything with me.”