Yesterday’s graduation of Early Alert Canine’s initial class was one of great joy, pride, and a sense of accomplishment!. This ceremony was also the culminating moment of the past 20 months spent planning and fundraising to make our dream of creating a non-profit, diabetic alert dog training organization come true.
The graduating class included four “full access diabetic alert dogs” placed with adults and one “skilled companion diabetic alert dog” that was placed with a 6-year-old and his family. Our dog-teams, comprised of a diabetic and a low blood sugar alert dog, came from their homes in Oregon, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Friends, family, and the dogs’ breeders and trainers were a few of the 120 people joining in the celebration. We shared a true sense of excitement.
I wish there were a way I could capture the sentiments expressed by the graduates as they symbolically received their dogs from each one’s puppy-raisers, or breeders. The speeches were both funny (as we heard about the idiosyncrasy of the dogs’ and new owners’ personalities), and touchingly heart-felt as the new graduates described how the dogs have already changed their lives. Here is an example of the sorts of things that were said:
- She (the dog) has helped me to relate to my diabetes in a new way.
- She has brought a new stability into my life, both in my private life, and in my diabetes.
- I’m no longer afraid to be alone.
- He alerted my husband when I was in the hospital and my blood sugar was dropping.
- “There’s somebody else in the house looking out (for my son) for me.” This was said in tears of gratitude.
- My kids come and bug me because the dog goes to get them when I’m ignoring his alerting.
- “I’ve learned so much about me!”
- His alerting is so much earlier than my meter.
- Often I don’t know I’m going low until he alerts me.
- I feel so much safer.
- I don’t feel alone anymore.
- I always have company.
- I never knew a dog would help so much, or, make such a difference.
- My blood sugar is in better control.
- I’m happier.
- And: Her favorite thing in the world is her “chuck-it ball”. I think she just keeps me around to throw it for her!
I have a funny feeling that each of us with a diabetic alert dog was relating to every story, tear and feeling. These dogs touch our lives in ways that are so profound, yet difficult to put into words – how you describe a feeling? To no longer live in fear, or shame, or isolation is a gift, as is living one’s life fuller, with a greater sense of ease, safety and peace of mind.
I am truly proud to be one of the workers and dreamers, and to watch EAC mature to the point of fulfilling its goal of training and placing these life saving dogs. I had once asked Carol Edwards, our executive director and lead trainer, why she has dedicated her life to training diabetic alert dogs? Her response was stated very simply, “…because of the positive impact they have on a diabetic’s life.”
Congratulations to all our new graduates! And may EAC’s dream continue to grow.