Today we went to the local ‘biggest-box’ store called Costco. On our way into the store we were greeted by, “Here comes Rainbow! Rainbow! Look, there’s Rainbow!” The person sharing those joyous exclamations was a ‘regular’ from the farmers’ market. And while browsing the book section, a little voice behind us broadcast, “Look Mommy! There’s Rainie from the library!”
One thing I’ve learned quickly since having Rainie is there’s no such thing as anonymity!
Early Alert Canines (EAC) is in the middle of a two-week team training where five dogs are being matched and trained with five recipients. It is phenomenal that ALL FIVE DOGS ARE SPONTANEOUSLY ALERTING their new partners at the end of the first week. The class began last Monday, and the teams were officially matched on Thursday.
I send my kudos to Carol (our main trainer and executive director), the dogs and recipients, and all the individuals who’ve worked behind the scenes.
Daisies at the Farmers' Market
We got to the farmers’ market earlier than usual, so the regular crowd wasn’t there. However, a ‘Daisy Troop’ was out really early to sell their cookies, and ask lots of questions about Rainie. Here are just a few:
“What is an Early Alert Canine?” I told them that she is a service dog that helps me with a medical condition called diabetes.
“I have a friend who’s 5 with diabetes. Can she get a dog like this one?” I told her that Early Alert Canines trains and gives the dogs to children and adults who are diabetic and have to take insulin.
“She’s got a pump. Is that the same thing?” Answer – Yes. That’s one way she can get her insulin.
“How much do they cost?” (Leave it to a child to ask this question so tactfully.) I explained how EAC doesn’t charge anything for the dogs.
“You mean they’re FREE! Can I get one?” She was so earnest. I explained that dogs like Rainie are specially trained for people with diabetes and that I hoped she would stay healthy and gets a pet dog someday.
At this point, one of the moms stepped in and stopped the conversation – they had customers.
We went to visit Rainie’s best friend today. As Rainie and Molly were playing on the grass, I sat talking with my human friend. Suddenly, Rainie came charging up from the lower yard, stopping in front of me to alert. My blood sugar was 85.
Sometimes, Rainie has an uncanny way of knowing my blood sugar is going to drop long before it actually does. Today was a quiet day. I spent most of the day with Rainie up in my pottery studio. She spent a lot of time either curled by my feet, or with her head out the door, watching the birds. In the middle of the afternoon, she touched my leg with her paw. She was alerting me. I tested and my blood sugar was 122. I gave her a small reward of a few Cheerios. But she wouldn’t settle down. She kept alerting. I tested again about 10 minutes later and my BS = 123. I couldn’t understand. I was feeling fine. Why was she keeping on alerting? I tested again – now it was about 1/2 hour after her first alert. My BS=120 this time. I kept trying to get her to settle down, but she was persistent in her alerting. I sat outside with her to watch the birds, but she was still nervous and kept staring at me and pawing me. I re-tested. It was now about 45 minutes after the first alert and I was beginning to feel like my blood sugar might be dropping. The meter read 68! Good girl Rainie! She got a big reward as I ate glucose.
This has happened a few times since we’ve been a team. What is she sensing? I don’t know. She begins alerting long before my blood sugar changes register on my meter. There is one thing I’ve discovered having a diabetic alert dog:
A Studio Alert
it’s good to trust my dog.
As I was at the acupuncturist’s today, I remembered an alert Rainie had given on our 2nd visit there. We’d been together for less than a month:
As usual, I was dozing on the table with Rainie nestled on the floor below me. Suddenly, I was aroused by Rainie leading Holly, my acupuncturist, back into my room. Apparently I had fallen completely asleep and Rainie had gone to find Holly down the hallway in another patient’s room to ‘alert’ her that I needed help. My blood sugar was falling very quickly – it went from 85 when I was woken up, to 60 a few moments later.
What is amazing is that Rainie had only been in that office twice before, and had met Holly exactly that many times. How did Rainie know to go and get her? I’ll never know how or why she does some of the things she does. Life with a diabetic alert dog is full of surprises!
Rainie's First Day Home
Today is the first day for a new class at EAC
where 4 diabetic adults and one 5-year-old child (with his parents) will be paired and trained with their new alert dog. Their lives will change in ways they can't even imagine!
This reminds me of my training and all the "firsts" that Rainie and I have had. Initially there was a week of classroom training where we were introduced to topics such as dog behavior, the basics of handling a dog in public, and dog first aid, as well as learning what an alert may look like, and how to reward the dog when they do alert. And finally, toward the end of the week we were finally matched with the dog we’d each go home with (in my case, this was Rainie). The second week we spent actually going out in public under the trainers’ watchful eyes, where we got to get used to actually dealing with a dog in public places such as restaurants, parks, shopping, pubic transit, etc. It was all very exciting!
However, the most amazing things began to happen over time as Rainie and I got to know each other, and as we began, experiencing our ‘first alerts’. The first one she gave me (while we were not in the classroom) was when she poked her head through the shower curtain as I was showering at the hotel. What a joy and surprise! And from there, the list of ‘firsts’ go on: in a restaurant, on a walk, while shopping, at a movie, in every room of the house, while working in the garden, on an airplane, while giving a lecture on what a diabetic alert dog is, etc.,etc. The list continues to grow…
I truly wish the best for the new teams that begin their training today! Their lives will never be the same.