Rainie and I went to speak to the three Health-Ed classes at the local high school. After introducing Rainie and myself, I told the students that I was there to discuss diabetes, service dogs, and low blood sugar alert dogs, and that I really hoped for a question and answer format rather than a lecture. It was interesting to watch the direction each class took. One session was focused on diabetes and the difference between ‘type 1’ and ‘type 2’, while another one wanted to know about diabetic alert dogs and how Rainie does what she does; and the third class wanted to go to lunch, so I mostly lectured. It was fun to be there, share what I know, and help to lead the discussions.
At one point, as I was describing how Rainie alerts me when my blood sugar is falling or rising rapidly, what it looks like, and why it is important for me that she does it, someone asked if every alert is important and life-saving? I responded saying, “No. Every alert does not mean that I’m in true danger. The alerts mean that I need to pay attention to myself – that I need to pay attention to my blood sugar.” This is the same response I’ve given to that question in the past.
But, since those classes, I’ve been thinking about a lot about that answer and the section where I said, “I need to pay attention to myself.” I’ve realized that, until now, Rainie’s alerting me has brought about a stimulus-response reaction in me. She’d alert and I would do my blood sugar, reward Rainie, check my pump or need for food, and calculate what sort of correction I needed to do. I’m realizing that this is not what ‘taking care of myself’ means. There is so much more to taking care of any body, and especially one with diabetes. What is my mood? How much stress am I in? Could I use some exercise, to laugh or cry, or take some time out? When did I last eat, and what was it? Do I feel like I’m getting sick? Or, am I bored and want to go play? All of these things affect my body and influence my blood sugar control. And Rainie is attuned to these, and more. Sometimes I’ll realize she’s led me to a place to sit down, or blocked my path so I don’t walk into someone or something. She senses people who are approaching and will lead me around them, or encourage me to interact. I’ve been surprised when she tries to take me to the other side of the street, only to realize that some ‘gang-members’ were approaching on the side we had been on. And my favorite is when she beacons me outside by catching my eye and flicking her head to follow her outside. There she’ll sit next to me on the step so we can watch the birds. I love watching the birds. She senses so much more than just my blood sugar. I need to pay more attention to Rainie, and myself.
While we were at the school, Rainie was a model service dog, curling up at my feet, and walking up and down the aisles, letting the students pet her as she went. At one point, she stopped, stared and sat-up in front of one particular young woman. Rainie was exhibiting her typical ‘alerting behavior’, and the girl seemed extremely knowledgeable about the technicalities of diabetes. Having not asked the classes whether anyone had diabetes, I can’t help but wonder whether she has diabetes. I will probably never know.