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

Monday, May 29, 2017

For the Love of Bo

Prior to my journey I had no dog training experience, never owned a dog, nor was a “dog person.” What I lacked in experience I made up for in sheer grit. I knew it was going to be work. I had no idea how much work it would be. I knew it would be at least two years before I'd know if the puppy I was training had the drive or temperament to be a service dog. I had no idea the amount of tears or triumphs I would experience on the way to finding out. I knew I would love our pup regardless of the outcome; I had no idea just how strong that love would be or how much joy it would bring.

My story is one a mother’s will to defy the odds to help her child live independently with a life threatening disease that requires constant vigilance — a story punctuated by adversity, perseverance and triumph. It's a love story in the truest sense. 

Video: With Me Off Leash

Bo is trained to walk at our left side and to keep our pace. 'With me' is the verbal command for this trained behavior. It's commonly known as 'heel.' When he is working on a leash, his leash should be loose. He should not pull ahead or lag behind but instead stay on his mark at our leg. 

In this video, Bo is walking with me OFF leash. You see he maintains his position at my left side, keeping pace and visually checking in with me. When I stop, he stops and sits without any verbal prompting. We use food reward based training to teach Bo to walk at our side on and off leash. One of the most helpful training tips I got related to training 'with me' was to be sure I was giving Bo his food reward on his mark.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Kid with the Dog

Last Thursday, I attended a meeting at work without my cell phone. The one hour meeting ended up lasting two hours. When I got back to my office, I had missed two calls — one from Austin and one from the school nurse. They were trying to reach me because Austin's blood sugar was 500 and he had small ketones.

In his condition, he couldn't walk home from school as planned, so he needed to be picked up. With me unreachable and his typical ride home out of town, Austin called our neighbors — Syl and Gil. And, as they've done so many times before, they swooped in and saved the day for our family. Syl was there to answer Austin's call and Gil was there to pick him up at school and bring him home. When I finally returned the missed calls, Austin was home and his blood sugar was on a downward trend.

Later that evening as I reflected on the incident, I couldn't help but think how Bo could have prevented the dangerous high and ketones, if he had been at school with Austin. I have no doubt Bo would have alerted in time to treat the rise in blood sugar before it got to an unsafe number. He also would have continued to alert, leading Austin to re-check. Bo wasn't at school because Austin has not wanted to resume taking him to school since he stopped attending with him in December. Austin says he wants to bring Bo back to school but so far he has not.

During a recent appointment with Austin's endocrinologist, Austin shared his feelings about bringing Bo to school expressing the extra work involved with being responsible for a dog at school. Later in an unrelated conversation with me, he made a reference to 'being the kid with the dog' at school. I know taking a dog to school is a big responsibility. I also know having a dog at school draws a lot of unwanted attention. I've chosen to leave the decision of whether or not to take Bo to school up to Austin. When we are going out in public, I always ask him if he wants to bring Bo or leave him home. Lately, he's opted to leave him home. Today, Austin had a medical appointment for an acute illness. Like I always do, I asked him if he wanted to take Bo to the appointment. I expected him to say, no. To my surprise, he said yes.