Student Interview: Sarah Cunningham


Jerry Igaz, Staff Reporter

On campus grounds, students from all walks of life study and pursue their dreams through hard work and determination. As all of them are unique, some of them also have experiences that outline their journey through life, and one such student has found herself facing everything that comes at her with the help of her faithful canine companion. This is a look into her own background.

About Sarah Cunningham

Meet Sarah Cunningham. A fourth-year student that is pursuing a major in English Education and with a minor in Deaf Studies, Sarah Cunningham is an aspiring student who has a faithful canine companion named Macy, a service dog. Macy attends classes with Cunningham and helps her with various problems regarding her health. Cunningham thinks that Macy will probably not get a certificate for all of her college attendances.

When asked about her favorite part of being a college student, Cunningham replied that she loves meeting all kinds of different people. “Shawnee has a pretty diverse campus community, so we get to learn about all different kinds of cultures and lifestyles,” says Cunningham. Macy is also friends with a lot of international students, too. Through her time on campus, she has learned how to say cute in eight different languages. Cunningham thinks that Macy might be learning some Arabic. 

When asked about their favorite spot on campus, Cunningham said the Morris University Center lobby was a favorite location of theirs. “It has plenty of room available to us so we don’t end up getting overwhelmed.” Cunningham also goes on to say that it’s easy for her to work there. Considering the space within the Morris University Center’s lobby, this statement is most true.

As COVID continues to be a large part of daily life, Cunningham was also asked about her opinion regarding current masking mandates and how it has affected her. “Honestly, it hasn’t impacted me that much,” says Cunningham, “however, the masks have made it incredibly difficult to communicate with others – especially in my sign language classes.” Cunningham stated that facial expressions are really important when it comes to non-verbal communication, and when it comes to masking, it makes it really hard to discern what facial expressions are being made because of it.

About Macy

Macy is a medical alert service dog. Her job is to let Cunningham know about issues at the onset, giving her time to take medicine or when to prepare for these things. “There are times when I am weak, so she can help stabilize me if that happens, or, she is trained to get help if I’m too weak to even hold onto her.” Macy also serves as a sort of therapy dog for individuals who are feeling stressed or are having rough days. “She can sense when others feel bad, and she’s always willing to calm them down by saying hello,” says Sarah. “She’s just a good girl in general.”

Cunningham has been with Macy ever since the service dog was just a few months old. “She’s about four years old. It’s been nice seeing her grow up since that’s allowed us to work with her since she’s been a puppy.”

When asked if she knew about other service dogs, Cunningham replied with excitement. “Yes! We’ve met a few of them, but each dog has a different job and personality. There are two other brown dogs, so people tend to get us mixed up with other service dogs and their handlers, but I think it’s funny,” says Cunningham. “Every handler has different rules about their dogs, though, but most of us are willing to answer questions if you ask nicely.”

When asked about complications regarding Macy as a service dog, Cunningham hasn’t had any issues so far. “People are surprisingly excited to see a dog, so she has been welcomed nearly everywhere we go.” Cunningham states that Shawnee has been accommodating for both of them and that all of her professors have been so understanding (and inclusive) with Macy. Cunningham states that making plans with a service dog can be difficult. “I have to be conscientious about the weather and errands so that she is always comfortable, and we have to be careful about people with a fear of dogs.” Cunningham doesn’t have to worry about issues because of the breaks they get, but she’s sometimes nervous that Macy could be a distraction during class. She says that most people enjoy having her as a classmate.

When asked about the training Macy had to go through, Cunningham spoke about some of Macy’s background information, primarily that she was supposed to just be a family dog. “I’ve always had poor health, and that was just something that she kind of figured out on her own. Even as a puppy, she always knew when I was in pain and she would go get my mom to let her know if I needed help. I have a friend who also has a service dog, and after talking to her, we realized Macy was a good candidate for the job, so we’d do group training sessions together.”

Some of Macy’s favorite things to do include going for walks, being around people, and showing affection. “She also likes eating. If you have peanut butter or chicken, you’ll definitely be one of Macy’s best friends. If you see the two of us on campus, feel free to say hello!”