Flutter, four-year-old yellow labrador, is almost always at the side of 18-year-old Summerville High School senior Jordan Craddock.
Flutter gazes up at Craddock, who has diabetes, and sniffs around him, ready to let him know his blood sugar levels have fluctuated to dangerous levels.
“She’s my lifesaver. She’s just someone to look out for me,” Craddock said. “With her, I can still be who I was before I had diabetes. I can go out, have fun and play sports.”
Craddock received Flutter during his sophomore year. She immediately made her presence known as his constant companion, at school, at sports games and even at home.
“We don’t have to worry about Jordy as much,” said Blanca Nieves, a friend of Craddock. “Everybody knows Flutter as a part of all of us. We’re really trusting of her. We knew if something was to go wrong, we have the reassurance everything is going to be OK.”
Craddock was diagnosed with diabetes in November 2012 and also has Celiac Disease, which prevents him from eating gluten (commonly found in wheat-based foods and drinks).
He takes insulin injections four times a day, after meals and before bed, with a special pen he injects into the back of his arms, stomach and legs. His blood sugar levels fluctuate, often crashing after intense exercise, causing him to become pale and feel faint in class, or rising when his pancreas cannot process his blood sugar.
It's a common sight on campus to see Flutter alert Jordan Craddock in a process called “offered focus,” where they stare at each other.
“Her behavior escalates if he doesn’t respond,” said Fatima Craddock, Jordan’s mother and instructional aide at Summerville High School.
Once, Jordan Craddock was mowing the lawn at his house in Tuolumne, he said, while Flutter was inside, pawing at the glass. Fatima Craddock ignored Flutter until it was apparent her high-strung behavior was a message.
Fatima Craddock opened the door and Flutter burst down the stairs, jumped off the deck and came to a stop beside Jordan.
Flutter bit her bringsel — a tab of material hanging from her collar — between her teeth. Flutter could detect his scent from many yards away, even behind a door, and knew he needed to check his blood sugar.
“As soon as she got to me, she alerted. I checked, and I was very low,” Jordan said.
After becoming so ingrained in the school culture, Jordan Craddock’s peers at Summerville High School say Flutter is just like another student on campus.
“She’s a real light post in a lot of students. It’s a lot more fun when they walk into the room because they’re a collective team,” said Mitchell Prevost, a Summerville High School senior from Tuolumne.
Deana Soto, Summerville High School activities director and leadership class teacher, remembered the anxiety of watching over Jordan before Flutter was around.
When he was freshman class president, Soto took a group of Summerville students to Disneyland for a conference.
Jordan disappeared while inside the restaurant, she said, and nobody knew where he went. She sent teams of students to find him. He emerged a few minutes later from the kitchen with a burger on a gluten-free bun.
“If he would have had Flutter, I wouldn’t have been worried,” she said. “With her I don't feel like I need to check, she can check.”
The peace of mind his parents and teachers feel about Flutter has spurned a much-needed sense of independence for Jordan, who plays football, basketball and baseball, enjoys hiking and is the Associated Student Body Vice President.
“Now that I have lived with diabetes for six years, I say, that's me, so what? I just keep living my life,” he said. “And now that I have Flutter, there’s really nothing that restricts me.”
Though Flutter often seems docile and lethargic while wearing her blue service dog vest, Jordan Craddock said it’s a sign of her being attentive. Flutter’s wet nose always has a slight tremble while she monitors his blood sugar level through the scent of his sweat.
The alternative to having Flutter was a glucose monitor attached to Jordan’s body, checking for blood sugar levels under the skin.
“I didn’t like that because with all my sports and activities it’s something attached to you,” Jordan Craddock said. “When I’m playing, she’s there but she’s not attached to me. You can’t make a bond with a constant glucose monitor.”
Flutter alerts between four to eight times every day and signals to him that he is outside of his optimal blood sugar range with 98 percent accuracy.
“We knew he was taken care of,” Soto said. “It’s a stress off of everybody else because we’re not all watching him.”
According to the American Disabilities Act, anywhere the public is allowed to go, Flutter can go, too. She also accompanies him to classes and waits for him on the side of sports fields during his games.
Jordan trained every weekend for four months with Dogs for Diabetics out of Concord before receiving Flutter as his service dog. She is food and gift driven, Jordan added.
When Flutter alerts, she gets a nugget of kibble or a few seconds with the “lickity stick,” essentially a dog gravy lollipop resembling underarm deodorant.
“It's just become natural. I don't even notice that she’s there,” Jordan Craddock said.
Flutter has become such a prevalent sight, she will be featured in his senior photo.
“She’s kind of another student. People sometimes refer to me as the kid that has a dog,” Jordan Craddock said.