The story of a boy living with Type 1 and his family's journey to raise and train a diabetic alert dog.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sometimes We Miss

It happens; sometimes we miss an early morning check. Today was one of those mornings. I awoke to my 2 o'clock alarm only to turn it off and fall back asleep. It wasn't until an hour and a half later when Bo woke me with an alert that I realized what I had done.

I immediately got up and followed him to Austin's room. There I fumbled in the darkness as my hands navigated Austin's nightstand in search of his pack. Finding it, I removed the meter, test strips and lancet then gently grasped Austin's hand and pricked his finger under the meter's illumination.

While I waited for the number to register, Bo stood in front of me with the frisson of anticipation.

The meter beeped and it read 79 — smack in the middle of Bo's low reward range. Once again, he nailed it.

"Good low Bo," I said.

Recognizing my words with the fervor of what was coming next, he began wagging his tail with an intensity that shook his rump.

"Let's get a treat." I said after giving Austin juice.

He followed me to the refrigerator and waited patiently for me to open the meat drawer and dish out his reward.

"He's low. Show me low," I said as I fed him bites of chicken between his paw swipes and bows.

He ate the last piece and I closed the refrigerator door.

"All set," I said.

But instead of returning to Austin's room, he stood looking at me with eyes asking for more.

"You wanna play?" I asked extending my arm to the top of the refrigerator to get his reward toy.

I grabbed the plush toy, tossed it and he ran after it. "I'm gonna getcha," I whispered.

He took the toy in his mouth and began jogging around the dining table. I followed behind him in a child-like game of chase. After a few laps, I ended the game. He brought the toy to me and exchanged it for one last treat before returning to Austin's bed.

Before leaving them, I re-checked Austin's blood sugar. It was 121. I kissed Austin's cheek, covered Bo with a blanket and returned to my room full of gratitude for the team we've become.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Video: Aha Moment

I've been working with Bo to teach him to differentiate between the 'drop' command and the 'release' command. When we give him the command to drop, we want him to drop what is in his mouth on the floor or ground. When we give the release command we have our hand on what's in his mouth, so it gets released in our hand rather than dropped on the floor or ground.

We use drop when he has something we don't want him to have. For example, sometimes he tries initiating play with a sock, hat or pillow -- things that are not toys. We use release when he is bringing us an object that we cue him to retrieve. For example, a juice box or a scent stick.

Up until recently, he had been dropping balls regardless if we gave him the drop or release command. Last weekend, when I was practicing with him inside the house. He retrieved the tennis ball, came to me, held the ball in his mouth and waited for my response. I put my hand on the ball and said release. He immediately released the ball into my hand.  It was a true aha moment for me. He got it -- he demonstrated his ability to differentiate between the two verbal commands despite having an object that he had previously been accustomed to drop upon retrieval.

We continued playing the game. I tossed the ball and he retrieved it each time demonstrating his ability to differentiate between my command to either drop or release the ball. It was a wonderful feeling seeing the results of our training and practice. There is nothing like an aha moment to provide inspiration and encouragement to keep going.

In this video, Bo we are practicing the release command with a scent stick that doesn't have a live scent in it.

Austin Works Bo in Classroom

Bo and Austin attended religion class last Sunday. The three hour class provided many opportunities for boy and pup to work together in a classroom environment. I continue to be the biggest distraction to Bo when Austin is working him. These are some pictures from the evening.

Changing classes.
Entering our classroom.
Leaving large group in the gym.
Navigating the snack line.
Hanging out during large group lecture.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Research Study: Dogs Can Be Successfully Trained to Alert to Hypoglycemia Samples from Patients with Type 1 Diabetes

This is a link to a study conducted by researchers Dana S. Hardin, Wesley Anderson and Jennifer Cattet.

From the Article's Abstract: 
Hypoglycemia (Hypo) is the most common side effect of insulin therapy in people with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Over time, patients with T1D become unaware of signs and symptoms of Hypo. Hypo unawareness leads to morbidity and mortality. Diabetes alert dogs (DADs) represent a unique way to help patients with Hypo unawareness. Our group has previously presented data in abstract form which demonstrates the sensitivity and specificity of DADS. The purpose of our current study is to expand evaluation of DAD sensitivity and specificity using a method that reduces the possibility of trainer bias.
Read full article at:

Low Alert and High Alert in the Middle of the Night

We were battling high blood sugar early last night and by midnight all our efforts to correct the high had caught up. Bo alerted me at 12:04 am. Austin had a friend sleeping over, so he was sleeping downstairs on the sofa bed instead of in his room. Bo was with the boys downstairs, so when he woke at midnight he came upstairs to alert to me in my bedroom. I checked Austin and he was 70. I treated the low with 15 g of juice, decreased Austin's basal rate, rewarded Bo, cued him to get back in bed with Austin and then went back to bed myself.

At 1:33 am I woke to Bo alerting again. This time Austin was 173. I had reduced Austin's basal rate too much but thanks to Bo I was able to take care of it before it got really high.

Last night was just another one of the many times Bo has helped us keep Austin safe through the night. I love our pup.