Last summer, someone from Can Do Canines phoned Nora Guerin to tell her they'd found a service dog that would be good match for her needs, a 75-pound, male black lab. However, there was one small issue.

"I hope you're not anti-Packer," the caller added, understandably hesitant, considering Guerin lives in Vikings territory, to reveal the dog's name: Lambeau.

The caller needn't have worried. Guerin has the Green Bay Packers logo tattooed on her ankle.

That's just one of the ways she pays tribute to her favorite football team. So the fact that her service dog was named after the Packers' home, Lambeau Field, and in turn for Earl Louis "Curly" Lambeau, who founded the Packers in 1919 and became the team's star halfback and coach, seemed to Guerin a powerful sign of destiny.

It was, at least, a stroke of kismet for the buoyant Guerin, 48, who tends to focus on the bright side of things. Even when it comes to her multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosed 20 years ago.

That diagnosis was not exactly welcome news, of course — MS is a long-lasting, chronic disease of the central nervous system that affects people in different and unpredictable ways, from mild symptoms to more profound disabilities.

Yet Guerin wound up celebrating it.

That's because her symptoms developed around the same time as a friend's mother was experiencing similar symptoms. The two women figured they must have the same thing, whatever it was. But the other woman turned out to have ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (often called "Lou Gehrig's disease" after a 1930s baseball player who died of it). ALS, unlike MS, is a terminal disease; doctors gave Guerin's friend's mother five years to live. (She died in two.)

The ALS diagnosis came two weeks before Guerin would learn her own results, and she spent those two weeks expecting the worst.

"When they said MS, I was, like, cheering," Guerin said. Remembering how much worse it could be "has kind of been my jam for the last 20 years. I don't know that I'd be where I am today without that situation happening."

The life she wants to live

Guerin's MS affects her balance, so she falls a lot. She limps and uses a cane or walker. She has spots in her vision, headaches and various pains here and there. Sometimes the symptoms ebb and flow, as when she lost feeling on the right side of her body, a condition successfully treated with "major steroids." Her hands are "75% numb," so she drops things and has problems picking up small items.

Guerin takes her meds, works out vigorously and remains undaunted. "I am really adamant about living the life I want to live," she said.

Lambeau helps her do it. The lab is, of course, impeccably trained, responding immediately and even eagerly to commands to sit or go to his kennel. And his toy-pickup skills exceed the average kindergartner's — if Guerin spills out his basket of toys and commands him to pick them up, he'll do so immediately, one by one, and drop them back in the basket. (Sometimes he misses the basket on first try, but then so would a kindergartner.)

Lambeau is constantly ready to step up to help Guerin. She has attached short ropes, called "tugs," to objects like her cane and her phone, so he can pick them up and hand them to her (tugs also are attached to doorknobs). He can turn lights on and off. He theoretically is capable of opening the washing machine and removing wet laundry, but seems reluctant to enter her tiny laundry room (perhaps a touch of claustrophobia, Guerin surmises).

He can lie over her "like a weighted blanket," his weight helping her relax. When she falls, he helps her get back up.

All this effort — the intellectual challenges more than the physical exercise — leaves Lambeau ready to sink to the floor and stretch out under the table by Guerin's desk. Even then, he keeps his attention on Guerin, ready to jump up at any time and perform a command.

"Usually, he's staring at me, into my soul, 24 hours a day," she said.

The room of their future

Lambeau accompanies Guerin to her job at Edison High School. Not all of the students there are on board with her football team preference. That's fine with Guerin.

"It's a topic that kids will come and talk about," Guerin said. "Sometimes just to yell down the hall, 'Packers suck!' That's OK."

She's happy to do whatever possible to get their attention and interest. As she speaks, a student steps into Guerin's office, explains she just wants a mint, plucks one from a big bowl near the door and heads out again. "We go through two pounds of mints a month," Guerin said.

Guerin works in the school's Career and College Readiness Center, preparing students for life after high school, whatever that might entail.

"We call this the room of your future," she tells a student who's sitting in the room working on a laptop. "Everything we do in this room is for you."

Guerin, who is working toward a doctorate in education, helps kids evaluate colleges or trade schools, teaches skills such as CPR, and brings in professionals from various industries. She's not an employee of the school district but of Achieve Twin Cities, a nonprofit foundation that sponsors locations at 28 high schools in Minneapolis and eight in St. Paul, aiming to reach every student.

Guerin calls it her "dream job." She had intended to teach in elementary school, but she wound up with jobs in high school and "fell in love with high school students," she said.

"I get a lot more than I give," she said. "So I will forever be here until they kick me out."

'These dogs have saved lives'

Even if students are fine with Guerin's football preferences, not all of them are comfortable around Lambeau and prefer to keep their distance. He doesn't bother visitors beyond a quick sniff (and they're instructed not to pet him, to prevent distraction). But the dog has a laid-back personality and is impeccably trained.

Can Do Canines has been in business since 1989, placing its 900th dog this year. The organization spends several years and around $45,000 preparing a pup for life as an assistance dog, said Caren Hansen, the organization's marketing and communication manager. Recipients of dogs pay only $50.

Their dogs are specially trained to help people in any of six different situations. Some, like Lambeau, help people with mobility issues. Others work with people who are deaf, nudging them to get their attention when an alarm; phone or doorbell rings. Some help people with diabetes; they can sense when the person's blood-sugar is low. Some help people with epilepsy, sensing a seizure before it occurs and getting the person to a safe place. And some are "facility dogs" that work in hospitals or other places with numerous people.

"These dogs have saved lives," Hansen said. "There are people who have told us, 'If she hadn't woken me up in the middle of the night, I would not be here today.'"

Guerin is quick to credit Lambeau with changing her life.

"With MS, life is very uncertain — Lambeau adds another realm of certainty," she said. "He's a gem. I believe he was sent from Heaven."

Correction: The headline on earlier version of this story misstated Nora Guerin's job title.