This post follows on the previous one “What’s a DAD?” that appears below. I encourage you to read the earlier post for the valuable introductory information it presents on diabetes and diabetic alert dogs.
A lot of the work that diabetic alert dogs do for their companions is mundane: sitting with them at movies, heeling to them everywhere, taking car rides, and sleeping by them. And, of course, alerting them when their blood sugar levels change. But even that can become routine, day after day.
Still, there is an air of mystery surrounding the DAD’s relationship with its companion. What, exactly, does the dog smell? Does the dog key into other factors, some body language that we do not notice? The relationship between a diabetic alert dog and its companion is close—very close, an emotional bond like no other. Which brings us to a phenomenon that is far from mundane. Some members of the Wildrose DAD community have reported the distance alert, or the remote alert. In this instance the dog alerts a parent that its child companion needs to check blood levels—but the child is not with them. In some cases the child is outside playing with friends. In other instances the child is miles away. This phenomenon has also occurred with adult diabetics and their DADs. Nobody has an explanation for this event, but many attest to its occurrence.
Recently, Texan Angie Simonton posted on her Facebook page a story of a distance alert, a poignant moment for her. Angie, a nine-year veteran kindergarten teacher, is a single mom whose daughter, Lily, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes before she was two. Charlie, a Wildrose gundog turned DAD, became her hardworking partner in helping Lily thrive. Charlie was the first Wildrose DAD to attend public school with a diabetic companion. The challenges of taking Charlie to public school were at first overwhelming, but Angie persisted in working out an effective situation. With a lot of assistance from Wildrose and with adjustments in the school, this young DAD team moved to the head of the class. Lily, now six years old, loves dancing, arts and crafts, and riding her bike and scooter. An active family, the Simontons love playing at the park, taking Charlie on walks—where he also gets a few retrieves—and, of course, going shopping. Angie’s latest Facebook posts show Lily handling Charlie quite expertly, heeling and reverse heeling. Here’s Angie’s story about Charlie’s latest heroics.
Charlie’s Latest Distance Alert
“Charlie continues to be a hero for Lily and we love him! He is the most important tool in her diabetes management as he continues to show us daily. During the day Lily attended Diabetes Camp this week. She loved it :). Charlie and I not so much. He was without his girl and I worried each day that she was away. The worst part was the pickup each afternoon. Of course, I was thrilled to see my Lilybug, but seeing her BGs without Charlie’s helpful alerts was hard. Any blood glucose below 80 for her age is considered low so a 46, 38, and 52 are BGs that give you a sick feeling. We made adjustments to her pump, lowered insulin dosages, and made helpful suggestions to enable her BGs to remain steady during the lots and lots of activity in the heat.
“Now keep in mind that Charlie is normally with Lily all the time so this is definitely different for him. We did lots of walks, retrieves, training exercises, and he got in a few extra zzzzz’s :). I took his basket of bringsels, his alerting tool, and put them on top of the kitchen table each day Lily was gone. I learned after Monday that I needed to keep her bedroom and playroom doors shut too. He attempted to alert a few times with her stuffed animals so I decided to take all “Lily” distractions away.
“Many know Charlie for his long distance alerts which means he has alerted to Lily’s blood glucose from great distances. This is almost unbelievable, but to witness it is amazing. They are real and they happen. Well today, he proved himself again. He was napping and lying on his cot when he suddenly woke up and proceeded into the kitchen. It is very unlike Charlie to just roam the house. He gets off place only to alert or when given the command, so this quickly caught my attention. I secretly watched him go to the place where the bringsels are located; however, I had the basket on the table. He then sniffed until he located the basket, put his paws up on the chair and dug his head in the basket for a bringsel while lying on the table. I was taken back because those familiar with Charlie’s obedience know he would not get on the kitchen chair or table—ever! I sat back on the couch and he sat in front of me with intense eye contact and placed his paw on my leg for a low. Not once or twice, but three times. I took the bringsel, knowing Lily was miles away in Fort Worth. He continued to bump me with his nose and give me a paw—relentlessly. He then proceeded to blow puffs of air out his cheeks. Then I knew he was serious. I made a mental note of the time and acknowledged Charlie’s alert.
“I wanted to call the camp, but of course didn’t :(. At pickup today, I looked at Lily’s logs of her BGs. Her numbers had been great and her pre-swim BG was 177. They had removed her pump during swim per my suggestion. After swim, she was tested again and her BG was 87. A 90-point drop. This happened during the same time that Charlie was alerting at home. Not sure how to explain this type of alert, but it happens. Someone dear to me said, “There is something inexplicable with those kinds of alerts! Charlie is a one-in-a-million.” We are blessed beyond with Charlie and his bond with my family. He is Lily’s guardian angel and provides us with life saving alerts daily!”
Angie has written the whole story of Lily’s diabetes diagnosis and their getting Charlie as a medical assistant. Her story, along with those of nine other diabetic families with Wildrose service dogs, will appear in our forthcoming book Lifesaving Labradors: Stories from Wildrose Families with Diabetic Alert Dogs. In the book ten DAD handlers tell their stories of daily life with a DAD, which requires hard work, persistence, continual training, and patience—not only with the dog, but also with inquisitive people they meet in public places. Plus, Rachel Thornton and others provide detailed training information for DADS.
The book is now being prepared for publication and will be released by Koehlerbooks in the winter of 2014. Ahead of its release we will give information about the book’s website and Facebook page, so that you can learn more about the people and the dogs featured in it. In addition, you can reserve a copy of the book. In the meantime, you can find more information about diabetes and DADS at the contacts listed below.
Please view the photo gallery of Charlie, Angie, and Lily at the bottom of this blog.
Anyone wishing to support our DAD program may make a donation to the Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dog Foundation; to make a donation online simply enter this URL in your browser: http://www.createfoundation.com/MakeADonation.aspx?id=87.
For more information:
Cathy Stewart, 662-234-5788
Rachel Thornton, 205-412-3672, firstname.lastname@example.org