When the University of West Georgia held its commencement ceremony, Maggie Leptrone received a bachelor’s degree from the Tanner Health System School of Nursing. Her Labradoodle Mona was right by her side, awarded the school’s first-ever honorary “dog-gree” for dutifully assisting Leptrone as she completed her program.
Leptrone was diagnosed with Type I diabetes as a child, People reports. As a diabetic alert dog Mona is trained to recognize fluctuations in Leptrone’s blood sugar with her nose. If something smells off, Mona will nudge Leptrone to take appropriate action.
“In my junior year of high school, there came a day when my blood sugar went way too low and I could not get it back to where it needed to be for a long time,” Leptrone told UWG. “I drifted into a mini-coma during my sleep, and my parents could not wake me up for a long time. Once I came to and got my blood sugar back to a manageable level, my mom decided that I needed something I could really depend on in my upcoming college life.”
Mona acquired her unique skillset while being trained by Diabetic Alert Dogs of America. She’s been Leptrone’s steadfast companion ever since. Still, navigating university corridors with a dog has not always been easy.
Leptrone told PEOPLE that it took some time to figure out how to interact with others without putting Mona in a compromising position. Today she has, “a pretty good handle on informing the public about what it means to have a service dog and what kind of service dog mine is.”
“Maggie – and Mona, of course – are truly extraordinary,” Dr. Jenny Schuessler, dean of THSSON, told UGW. “Having been a diabetic for most of her life, Maggie knows what it’s like to need good nursing care, so to see her excel through nursing school has been such a rewarding experience. She credits the supportive care from her nursing professors for her success, but the faculty give all the credit to Maggie.”
“Every one of my professors has been a blessing to me,” Leptrone told UWG. “They have been understanding of my situation and welcomed Mona and myself with open arms. My professors did not see a hindrance to my education but saw a student who has overcome a lot of odds to get where she is today. Each professor worked with me and helped me find ways to do my job with Mona staying at my side.”
Leptrone is moving forward into her career with confidence. She credits Mona for being “a trailblazer at UWG for students like me who require a service dog to manage their health.”
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