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Posts tagged ‘diabetic children’

What else can a diabetic alert dog do? (As well as an introduction)

Will work for  Cheerios (but I'd prefer a steak!)

Will work for
Cheerios
(but would prefer a steak!)

“Hi.  My name is Darwin.  I am a Diabetic Alert Dog.  I alert this girl’s parents when she is having a high or a low blood sugar.  The parents reward me with Cheerios but I think I deserve a STEAK.  After all I save the girl’s life all the time.  If you agree, please like this.  The girl’s parents said id I get 10.000 lkes I get a STEAK.  Thank you!”  ~~ This photo was originally posted on Face Book; and although I’ve written about Darwin in the past, if you haven’t had the opportunity to meet this regal, layed-back, newly graduated black Lab and his 4- year- old charge, please check into their new blog (hilariously written from Darwin’s perspective, and voiced by his human mom.) DarwintheDAD.com

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Laura and Darwin just graduated from EAC as a certified diabetic alert dog team.  Since Laura, being only 5, is too young to be Darwin’s designated handler, “Team Darwin” includes her parents also.

It is impossible for me to express how the life of a family with a young diabetic child changes once a DAD (Diabetic Alert Dog) enters the household.  Many parents have said that they have a huge sense of relief knowing they have yet another team member to watch over their child, in a way that they cannot.  The dogs help bring a sense of peace of mind, increased safety, caring, companionship and friendship to all, not just the immediate family.

Because Darwin has been trained to have two distinctive alerts, one for highs and another for low/dropping blood sugars, Darwin’s alerting is also allowing Laura to identify the sensations of high and low blood sugars, give them appropriate names, and verbalize the feelings.  This is an incredible and unforeseen gift!  The world of how these dogs help us continues to evolve.

Hooray for “Team Darwin!”  And, as for my alert dog Rainie, I believe her preferred  reward for alerting me would be either pumpkin pie, or graham crackers with peanut-butter.

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Will work for  Cheerios (but I'd prefer a steak!)

Will work for
Cheerios
(but I’d prefer a steak!)

 

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Given as a gift

This YouTube video was made by one of Early Alert Canine’s newest teams as a Christmas gift to EAC’s head trainer.  Valerie does a wonderful job of explaining about life with Type 1 diabetes (T1D), as well as the role a diabetic alert dog, and the impact that one has on the life of the diabetic, family and community.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlHdzrZzfXI

Please, enjoy the show!

~Hilary and Rainie

 

Laura Consoles a Friend

IMG_2581When a service dog is first bought home, it is important that he interact only with his new partner and not be distracted by others.  This is primarily for bonding purposes, and so the dog learns who and what to focus on.

Even though I understand this rule because I am a service dog owner, it’s sometimes even hard for me not to ask if I can pet other service dogs because of my own love for dogs in general.  “No touching or distracting” is a ‘rule’ that all service dog owners must constantly reinforce with the public.

Here is another story about Laura and Darwin (see my last post) and how she is helping teach others about these stipulations.

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(Written by Laura’s grandma)

…The trainers urge all of the clients not to let people pet Darwin because, especially in the early days of being home, he is learning to focus on Laura.

In public, such as a store or at yesterday’s soccer game, people have been understanding.  It’s harder, however, when people we like and who are passionate about animals want to pet him.  He is such a handsome dog, with an earnest expression and that shiny, silky coat, that people say they just want to hug him.  Yesterday (our friend), although completely getting the point, was telling Darwin that she was sad about not being able to hug him and that she was just going to break into the house sometime to give him a huge hug.

Laura disappeared to her room for a few minutes and returned with her 12 inch high, bright red plastic Red Rover puppy from a game. She handed it to (her friend) and said she could pet it. If an adult had done this , or even an older child one could suspect a smart- alecky attitude, but Laura said, “I don’t want you to feel bad.”

Darwin Alerts in the car

Darwin Alerts in the car

A Mother’s Letter (and, An EAC Success Story)

Laura and Darwin

Laura and Darwin

Early Alert Canines has just finished another team training where two adults with diabetes were placed with blood sugar alert dogs, as well as one family with a four year old daughter with diabetes.

The young family has been home with their dog, Darwin, for almost one week.  Face Book postings are telling the wonderful story of how Darwin is reveling in his job of alerting to high and low blood sugar changes.  Sometimes when a dog first goes home with his new partner, it takes a while for the dog to adjust to the new routine, new people, and new environment.  NOT DARWIN!  In the few days he has been in his new ‘forever home’ he has alerted the mother of his new young charge, Laura, at pre-school, at home, during soccer practice and during dance class.  Good boy, Darwin!

I would like to share this ‘post’ written by Laura’s mother, explaining how difficult it is to regulate a young child’s diabetes, and what a gift Darwin has already been in their lives:

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It was brought to my attention that with all the posts recently about how great Darwin is at helping us manage Laura’s type one diabetes, as well as posting about highs and lows, that people might perceive it that we didn’t have control without him. First of all, T1D Managment is an art, not a science. The body is always changing and so do insulin needs. When Laura is getting sick, we know ahead of time from wacky numbers. When she’s stressed, we can tell from the numbers. We are constantly changing insulin ratios to try to match her insulin needs. As you can imagine, it’s a daily battle that is hit and miss. Large swings in the numbers is normal, while not ideal. One has to be most concerned about lows and chronic highs.

Prior to having Darwin we would have to rely on trying to read the signs of highs and lows from Laura’s behavior and mood. She’s 4. Sometimes a 4 year olds behavior is similar to a diabetic having a low. With Darwin, he smells a difference and he can let us know. Laura can tell us if she’s low if she’s relaxed. But in the soccer situation, she showed no visible signs of a low nor did she mention anything. Darwin helped us intercept that before it got very dangerous.

We have also used a continuous glucose monitor that works with her pump. The CGM can give us an indication if she’s on the way up or down. It’s not 100% accurate and there are delays in the readings. There is a 20-30 minute lag time generally. Darwin will, in most cases, be able to catch a low before it happens. The CGM is also one more piece of equipment Laura has to have punctured into her. As a mom, if I can get similar or better information from a black fuzzy doggie rather than a sensor stuck in her I will use the dog.

That being said, new technology is always in the pipeline for T1D management. When the new stuff comes out, Laura will have it.

In future posts I will be more clear about how Darwin has changed the way we handle things.

Type one diabetes sucks. I will use anything and everything to make sure Laura is as happy and healthy as she can be. For now and for ever.

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T1D means Type 1 Diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, called beta cells. While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing you can do to prevent T1D, and—at present—nothing you can do to get rid of it.  (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation)

A person who has been diagnosed with T1D must take insulin in order to say alive.

If a Picture Says A Thousand Words…

Love And Devotion

Love and Devotion

A boy and his blood sugar alert dog.

(Thank you Sam, Cohen and Jedi & Early Alert Canines)

Making Magic – Early Alert Canines’ “1st Annual 2-4-1 Walk”

At the starting line EAC's 1st Annual 2-4-1 Walk

At the starting line
EAC’s 1st Annual 2-4-1 Walk

Have you ever had that feeling from deep within that you know you are helping to create something magical?  This feeling truly came to light for me this past Saturday at the Early Alert Canines “1st Annual 2-4-1 Walk” (2 feet, 4 paws, 1 cause!).  About 75 people, escorted by 15 dogs, came together as a community to share their support for EAC, and show their enthusiasm for training diabetic alert dogs.

As we walked around the small lake, admiring the fountain and enjoying the sunshine, we talked.  Here are a few of the stories that were shared with me:

Lalu, a very vocal black lab-golden mix that was teamed with her young (about 6 year-old) partner and her family in April, alerted from across the gym as the little girl’s blood sugar sky-rocketed while she was performing on the uneven parallel bars at a gymnastics event.  This was somewhat embarrassing since Lalu’s vocal volume increases with the intensity of her alerting.

Again, Lalu, who is terrified by water, alerted while her young charge was swimming.  Lalu’s alert for dropping blood sugar is to raise her paw and touch.  As Lalu was alerting, she was walking toward the pool on three legs as she kept her ‘alerting’ paw raised, calling the whole time.

Jedi, was also placed with his new family in April (his young diabetic responsibility is 7). He is the classroom’s favorite ‘visitor’ each day he is bought to work there with his new ‘mom’.  Apparently, all the kids were incredibly disappointed when “Just the Mom!” came on their field trip to the zoo, with no Jedi.  (Bringing a service dog to the zoo might evoke the “pray instincts” in the caged animals.  It is recommended they not be taken to places with wild animals – even caged.)

Both Jedi’s and Lalu’s ‘parents’ expressed how much comfort is having the dogs.  They said there are no words to express what it’s like to have another set of eyes (or nose in this case) looking over their diabetic children.  And the peace of mind knowing they’ll be told about potential problems before a true emergence happens, even if it means being awakened at night, is a great relief.

On a different note, it was great to hear that one of the EAC trainers is making an ‘office-call’ to try to help resolve an alerting issue that is arising at someone’s work.

Even us “old –times” shared stories of our own: my dog, Rainie, alerting me while on the beach; and the quiet assurance provided by Norm to his T1D ‘dad’ who lives alone.  And Jason, is full of stories of how “Eli” alerts him while he’s traveling for work – regardless if it’s on a plane, in a restaurant or hotel, etc. And, yes, Eli even alerts at home and in the car.

It was an incredible honor/pleasure/moment-of-pride for me to see so much participation and enthusiasm for what EAC does.  I want to thank our ‘new recruits’ (dogs in the process of being scent trained), the families fostering them, the newly placed teams, the training/office staff, us “old-timers” and everyone else who have ever supported EAC or donated to our fundraiser.  I hope that everyone realizes that you, too, are helping to create some magic.

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Accomplishments Large and Small

Accomplishments Large and Small – Diabetic Blog Week

Blue   The color of diabetes awareness

Blue
The color of diabetes awareness

How often are we given the opportunity to acknowledge our accomplishments, or are actually encouraged to share our pride?  And, how often do we toil to learn a difficult task, one that we should be proud of, just to have it become routine and ho-hum?  For example:  Not many of us remember learning to walk or run, and then stop gracefully – which are all huge feats, if you think about it.  But now walking is routine, and taken for granted, and the effort it took to learn, long forgotten.  I believe, once a habit has become routine, it is human nature to disregard the fact that we had, at one time, accomplished a huge task.  Let’s take today to celebrate where we are, and the path we took to get here.

When I look back at all that I (and my family) have accomplished in terms of living with my diabetes, I can easily become overwhelmed.  Since being diagnosed as a very young infant in the 1950s, these are a few of the skills that I’ve had to practice:

  • Giving (and getting) shots
  • Using Test-tape (we/diabetics used to test our urine to check for sugar.  That was the only way we kind-of guestimate what our blood sugar  was.)
  • Performing and interpreting finger-stick blood sugar testing
  • Adapting to constantly changing eating regimens, and personal likes and dislikes
  • Learning how to count carbs
  •  Learning about different types of insulin and when they peak and valley
  • Learning how to juggle diet (with insulin), exercise (with insulin), emotions and stress (with insulin) – all a work-in-progress, while…
  • Constantly figuring out how to correct my ‘mistakes’ when I over eat or give/get too little/too little insulin or when my blood sugar doesn’t like the color of my sox (or something), etc.
  • Mastering (sort-of) the pump, dealing with depression, dealing with complications –  for me it’s happening mostly in my eyes
  • Finding other diabetics to talk to, and
  • Getting a diabetic alert dog

Wow!  Those are a lot of skills, and confronting each one deserves a moment of pride, if not a medal.

However, today’s topic for Diabetes Blog Week is to discuss my biggest accomplishment.  This one is easy!  My biggest accomplishment is that I am no longer ashamed that I am diabetic, and that I am no longer bashful about telling people that I have diabetes.  For this momentous step forward, I can thank my diabetic alert dog, “Rainie”.

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As a young child I was taught to hide my diabetes at all costs.  I was taught that it was shameful and something not to be shared.  I grew to be a self-reliant “chronic child,” never asking for help, even when I needed it badly.  Despite desperately wanting to go, I was not allowed to go to Diabetic Camp.  My parents wanted me to think of myself as a ‘normal child’; but instead, I felt felt very isolated, defective and alone.  Unfortunately, I sub-consciously kept these beliefs about myself throughout college and nursing school – even after I’d specialized in diabetes.  It was only after getting married that I learned I could ask someone (my husband) for help – he loved me even though I had diabetes!

This was when I began realizing that I have diabetes and I’m ok!

I continued to evolve and open up about who I am.  In 2010 I decided to apply for a diabetic alert dog.  One of the ‘things’ we were warned about is that when you have a service dog’s leash in your hand, people will ask very personal and inappropriate questions: “What is your dog for?,” or “What’s wrong with you?” or many other questions like that.  With a service dog, it’s more difficult to ‘hide’ the fact that you are different.

Happily, I’ve learned to take these questions in stride.  In fact, when people ask me about Rainie and what she does, I’ll usually say, “This is Rainie.  She is a diabetic alert dog and smells for changes in my blood sugar.  I am diabetic.”  From here, the conversation can turn towards Rainie and diabetic alert dogs, or toward diabetes.  It usually turns toward Rainie.  It’s funny because not too long ago, my daughter mentioned that she couldn’t believe how easily I admit to being diabetic.  “Mama,” she said, “It’s not like you.  You’ve changed.”

I’ve been teaching about diabetes to patients, families and groups for years; and finally, after over 55 years of living with ‘type 1’, I’m finding I can proudly say, “Yes.  I have diabetes.”  And I’m glad I finally can.

I have diabetes and I’m ok!

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