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.