Monday, July 19, 2010

Dogs for Diabetics

The answer to my daughter's final question, was of course "YES!". Next time you are in our office, bring a few extra quarters or silver dollars to put in the "Pennies for Puppies" can.

Dr. Joe

Hi Dad,

A few weekends ago I had a unique and amazing experience. I was invited by a friend to a graduation ceremony. But this ceremony wasn’t for a high schooler or a young college grad, it was for a group of Labrador Retrievers that had successfully completed their training as a “diabetes dog”. The organization that graduated these dogs, Dogs 4 Diabetics, rigorously trains these dogs to smell when a person with diabetes is heading toward hypoglycemia and alert them.

How amazing is that? The person I was with is type 1 and has a CGM. She seems a little frustrated that it is roughly 20 minutes behind her actual blood sugar levels. During the ceremony I saw her pull out her strips and meter and check. She then pulled out a pack of mints and ate a few. I assumed she was lower than she wanted to be and was making the necessary adjustment.

Across the aisle, a D4D dog lay at the feet of his charge. I didn’t connect it at first, but that dog picked up his head and started to sniff the air at the same time my friend was starting to pull out her meter. As she dropped lower, the dog got more agitated. So did the dog in front of us, and the dog 3 rows up and across the aisle. I was blown away. Here my friend was dropping from 109 to whatever (and on her way back up ) and all the dogs within a 20 foot radius where alerting their owners. Again, how amazing is that?

The day was filled with tears and stories. Each trainer/raiser came up on stage to “pass the leash” to the person with diabetes whose life was in that instant changed forever. Lots of stories from the trainers/raisers about how their dog was special. Each so delighted their dog was going to serve and possibly save a life. Lots of tears from the grateful recipients. Having completed their own rigorous training program they knew, completely understood, how their lives were about to change and change in ways they could not yet imagine. Lots of stories from folks who have been living with their dogs and their families. These dogs have saved lives more than once and, frankly saved relationships. Imagine being nagged for years by your partner/spouse to check your blood sugar - now imagine that nagging disappears because the D4D dog is now the nagger. Who would ever mind being nagged by a Labrador??

So back to my friend with the CGM… the dog alerted her 20 minutes BEFORE she went low that she was going low. The CGM beeped 20 minutes AFTER she was low. That is a 40 minute difference. Depending on how fast she was dropping, that could be the difference between eating a few mints and experiencing a medical crisis. UNBELIEVABLE.

I’m sorry I didn’t drag you there. It was right up your alley (Labradors/diabetes management). I did my best to buy t-shirts, hats and generally give money to Dogs 4 Diabetics. One of their fund-raising campaigns is “Pennies for Puppies” and all they ask is you put the spare change from your pocket into a can. I picked up one of those cans. Would it be alright to put it in your office? I think the folks who come through your door might like to support Dogs 4 Diabetics.