Yesterday I walked a 5K race for a charity you probably haven’t heard of.
Dogs4Diabetics is an innovative non-profit organization that provides quality medical alert assistance dogs to youth and adults who are insulin-dependent type 1 diabetics through a program of training, placement, and follow-up services.
Dogs4Diabetics assistance dogs have been specifically trained to identify, and more importantly, act upon the subtle scent changes that hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) creates in body chemistry, changes undetectable to their human companions.
I’d never heard of them until I met my friend Devin, whose constant companion is Cody. Cody signals her when her blood sugar drops rapidly. He’s like a constantly active blood-sugar monitor, so she doesn’t need a machine. (She still checks it sometimes manually, just to be safe.)
The dogs are official assistance dogs and are allowed on buses and in stores. Devin says she gets lots of funny looks from people when they realize she’s not blind. But one thing she always does is stand up for her rights. You’d be surprised how many businesses try to kick out guide dogs. She’s an activist for guide dog awareness.
Cody has a great job. He only has to signal her a few times a week, and the rest of the time, he can relax and be a dog. Many of the Dogs4Diabetics come from the Seeing Eye Foundation. They’re dogs who were training for guide dogs, but weren’t quite good enough to make the cut. So they’re well-trained, and most of them have no trouble learning to smell blood sugar. Golden retrievers and black Labs are the most common dogs right now for this program.
The walk was terrific. Dogs everywhere! My friend Sarah and I brought her (non-helper) dog Bruno, who was thrilled to meet so many new dogs. We walked with a gentleman who says he’s been on the waiting list for two years for a helper dog. Apparently the need is far greater than the number of dogs and the group’s resources.
So check out Dogs4Diabetics if you’d like to learn more. You can donate or offer help if you like.
And you have questions, ask away! I’ll do my best. I don’t work for the group, but I’m fascinated by them, so I’ve learned a lot from Devin.