Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Diabetic's Best Friend

A dog is a man's best friend...but it also can be a diabetic's best friend. Most of us are familiar with a CGMs or a Dexcom that can monitor our blood sugar and can alert highs and lows throughout the day; however, that isn't the only way to be informed about a high or low. I chatted with Michelle about her daughter, Sarah's experience with a D.A.D [Diabetic Alert Dog] and I was fascinated to find out all the amazing things such a cute four legged creature could do to help those living with diabetes!
Picture of Sarah & Scout 

Sarah (13) was diagnosed when she was ten years in California. After being diagnosed Sarah's mother was shocked at how well Sarah took her diagnosis being only ten years old. In September of that year Sarah went on an insulin pump and following that she began working with Guide Dogs for the blind to get a feel for what medical dogs were all about. "We started working on getting her a Diabetes Alert Dog about two years ago by volunteering for Guide Dogs for the Blind to help Sarah get used to working with labs and learning to control/train them"noted Michelle. 

After raising the necessary funds as well as going through the rigorous training for a D.A.D, Sarah was ready to take on diabetes with a little help from a smart Lab named Scout.  Although fortunate to receive such a wonderful gift and assistant, Michelle admits that sometimes it can be a struggle, "It’s definitely a lot of work. Managing even a very well trained dog takes patience and practice. Dogs require a lot of attention, exercise, and the training is ongoing." However, Sarah showed her mom just how willing she was by staying on top of the training, feeding, walking and rewarding Scout without too much difficulty. Keep in mind, she is only thirteen years old! 

Michelle really gave me the impression that Sarah is a warm-hearted and happy teenager who has been content with her diabetes from the beginning without letting it bring her down. I was curious to know more about the relationship between Scout and Sarah - exactly how it worked! So here is the amazing part that will make you praise any D.A.D! 

Scout is trained to recognize the smell of low and high blood sugar. If you're anything like me you just wondered if we give off a smell when were are high and low that people can smell.. still curious about this.  Anyways, Scout is trained to smell the ranges and when she is high or low he will tug at a object called a bringsel (stuffed tube) to alert her. She then rewards Scout with a squeaky toy. (Totally, 
thinking of Pavlov's Dog right now, for all my Psychology lovers!)

Amazing isn't it!  My last question to Michelle was one to go beyond being amazed by the animal, but rather how it feels as a parent to have an extra set of eyes and a good smelling nose keeping an eye on her daughter.  Michelle said that although it was Sarah's idea to apply for a dog, she feels that it gives their family as well as Sarah a sense of security to catch the highs and lows.  

If you want to follow Sarah's journey with Scout visit their Facebook page: A Diabetes Service Dog for Sarah



  1. When I was growing up, I had a miniature dachshund named Liebschen who could tell me when I was low.
    Back then there were no home monitors, or they were too expensive for most people to have. Liebschen would often wake me to tell me when I was low. Years later, we got another miniature dachshund named Andy, he too could tell me when I was low. He'd wake up my husband, who would then wake me so I'd go test myself. So before they began training dogs for diabetic's I had two of them!

  2. That is so amazing. We also have a pug who has definitely alerted Sarah a few times to really low lows. Scout alerts much higher, before she can feel low, which is really awesome. Dogs are amazing.

  3. That’s just simply amazing. I hope that more D.A.D.s can be trained to help other diabetics with avoiding having possible insulin shocks from low sugar levels. Plus, dogs make awesome companions, regardless. :)

    Juliana Vanslyke