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Archive for March, 2013

Three New Teams Graduate at Early Alert Canines!

"Lucy" and her boys

“Lucy” and her boys

Yesterday, Early Alert Canines celebrated another major milestone.

Three diabetic alert dogs teams were officially ‘handed their leashes’ in an emotional graduation ceremony.*  One team consisted of “Mr. Brooks”, a petite, yellow Labra-doodle and his new mistress, a long-term diabetic, soon to be retired, who lives alone.  However, for two of these celebrated teams, the ‘clients’ are actually families with multiple diabetic members.  In one family, “Lucy”, a happy and energetic yellow Lab-golden retriever mix, watches over a family with three young boys, two of whom have diabetes; and in the other family, “Bender”, a mellow, loving, gigantic black Lab/golden retriever mix alerts to three home-schooled children and their father.

All of these dogs are alerting to both high and low blood sugars.  Lucy and Bender have been trained to alert one of the parents if their charges’ blood sugars are dropping at any time, day or night.  One of Lucy’s ‘guys’ cannot sense his blood sugar at all (called hypoglycemic unawareness), and her special skills and talents are especially important for this ‘human partner’.  In the five months since the dogs have been placed in their new homes, there has been a decrease in the number of ‘dangerous lows’ and ‘unbelievable highs’, and an overall improvement of the diabetics’ blood sugar levels.  These are very busy dogs!

We like to say that diabetic alert dogs (DADs) are life-saving dogs and a diabetic’s best friend.  They are trained to alert when a diabetic’s blood sugar drops rapidly so that steps can be taken to prevent serious situations.   And low blood sugar can lead to unconsciousness and death.   So, yes, they can literally help save lives.

They also help to save lives in a more figurative manner. Their warnings help to bring a sense of peace of mind and security by providing yet another ‘warning system’ to keep the diabetic’s blood sugar in check.  The dogs can often sense the fact that the blood sugar is going to drop, before it actually does, thereby giving a truly advanced warning of impending danger.  They provide a sense of companionship for the diabetic, and another “set of eyes and ears” (and nose – in this case), for parents of diabetics.  For the parent of a young diabetic, the dogs help allow for a more restful day and secure sleep, knowing the trained DAD will alert them, even waking them up at night, and bring the parent to the appropriate child if there are multiple diabetic children; and for parents of older diabetic children, say, in college, it is a comfort for the parent to know that, even when away, their child has another ‘early warning system’.  And for the ‘more mature’ single person with diabetes, the DAD helps provide the same physical security and companionship, peace of mind for self, family and friends, and the knowledge, to all, that self or loved-one has another helping ‘nose’ and is never alone.

CONGRATULATIONS to all the teams, old and new.  May you continue to have a life of fulfillment and happiness, and peace of mind.


* To achieve “graduation status”, the new teams must demonstrate an 85% or better alerting accuracy rate.  This means that the dog must correctly alert t >85% of the blood sugar changes tested and recorded by the diabetic client, in multiple and various situations; and the client must recognize the alert and respond appropriately.



Fear and Companionship

I knew I had a friend

Comfort is a warm puppy!

Yesterday, I was whisked by ambulance to the emergency room for chest pain.  It was 1:30 in the morning, and I woke up in a fit of violent coughing.  Afterword I realized my chest was hurting, I was nauseated, and dripping with perspiration.  I didn’t know what to do.  Last week, my new doctor had lectured me on the dangers of silent heart attacks in diabetics.  She didn’t like that I’ve had a heart murmur since I was a teen, and haven’t had a sonogram for over 20 years.  She wanted me to have all sorts of tests performed – EKG, stress test, blood tests, and an echocardiogram – immediately.  And now I was having chest pain.  I was scared!

We called 911.  The firemen came first, soon followed by the EMTs.  Everyone was extremely nice.  Rainie, my diabetic alert service dog, was invited to accompany me in the ambulance, but I decided to have her go with my husband in his car instead.  She was obviously upset by everything going on.  Something was wrong with her “Mommy”, and all those people around me were confusing to her.  I was worried she’d be traumatized being jostled around in the ambulance as it went down the hills in order to get into town.

When we got to the ER I was wheeled into a room and about 5 nurses and doctors descended upon me, attaching me to monitors, drawing blood, etc.; but when they saw Rainie, they stopped and invited her up onto the gurney to keep me company.  After a quick ‘kiss’ on the chin, and a nuzzle or two, she settled next to me with her head on my abdomen.  With my husband and Rainie there, I finally began to relax.  I felt comforted and loved despite all the ‘medical stuff’ happening to me.

(I am so grateful that I didn’t have to argue with anyone about bringing my service dog into the emergency room.  The fact that she was accepted and greeted so warmly (by everyone my entire hospital stay) was soothing for me, despite all the stress that I was being put through).

The emergency room doctor encouraged me to be admitted due to the “severe combination” of diabetes and chest pain.  They wanted to rule out any heart and stroke possibilities.   I was hesitant.  I do not like hospitals, yet I decided to stay.

As it turned out, every test ended up being normal (surprising, to the doctors, since I’ve been diabetic for over 50 years).   “It’s better to be safe than sorry,” I guess.  I will never forget the ER doctor saying  to me, “Consider it a day of really bad food!”  I came home, sleep deprived, at 3:00 that afternoon.  It was not the most joyous or restful of vacations, despite the size of the forthcoming bill!

February Edition of the Early Alert Canines “The Scentinel”



Welcome to the 3rd edition of Early Alert Canine’s “The Scentinel”.

For some reason, seeing the newsletter in print makes me reflect on what we/EAC have accomplished in the two years and three months since the initial group of us first sat around a kitchen table to begin visualizing what we wanted Early Alert Canines to be.  (We even needed a name.)

We knew we wanted to create a non-profit organization to train and place low blood sugar alert dogs with adults with diabetes, as well as families with young diabetic children.  And we wanted to be far-reaching in the clients we serve. Thus far, in our first year of placing these life-saving dogs, we have graduated 5 certified teams, with three more graduating in March.  We have teams in Oregon, Los Angeles and throughout the bay area.  There are also 3 teams with families with diabetic children – thus far.

A training center was needed.  What a chore this was.  And we did it!  We’ve created a beautifully remodeled site, not far from a large shopping mall, public transportation and San Francisco.  The location provides many of the learning opportunities needed for training the dogs and teams.

Our trainer wanted to continue the research needed in training diabetic alert dogs, and provide documentation of her process.  Even though Carol had previously trained and placed over 60 DADs, the opportunity to train these dogs for families with very young children was new.  Needless to say, large strides have been made in this area.

Of course, there was, and is, the continued need to develop the non-so-obvious infrastructure that an organization requires – office work, applications, work, outreach, fundraising, developing our reputation, attaining dogs, etc., etc………
Thank you for coming along for the ride.   Please enjoy the newsletter!