According to the American Diabetes Association, there are about 1.25 million people in the United States living with Diabetes Type 1, which is not caused by the food you consume. Most people are diagnosed before reaching the age of twenty.
While there are natural choices one can make such as eating a whole food diet or carefully selecting supplements that can help support healthy blood sugar levels, I would like to introduce you to another idea that can partner along with the current insulin pumps and monitors: a dog.
I recently met Cooper, a labradoodle who is a diabetic alert dog for a beautiful, full-of-life seventeen-year-old named Kayden Fentress. Kayden was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at eighteen months of age and has learned to live a normal life. She does everything anyone can do and will tell you so. However, Kayden was found unconscious last year when her monitoring technology failed.
Between that experience and wanting to attend college soon the family set out on a journey to find the perfect service dog. While they have been raising money and preparing for a while, the pair met last month and have been busy establishing their bond. Kayden said it took a little bit of getting used to, similar to having a toddler around all the time, even carrying a bag of treats and food everywhere for him. They train together daily and no one is supposed to call him by his name, he is CJ to everyone beside Kayden. She is the only person allowed to feed and take care of him to strengthen their bond. He obeys her quickly and even has trained disobedience in case of an emergency.
The pair will head to Mannford High School for Kayden’s senior year soon and then on to college. Cooper, along with his trainer and Kayden’s family got to visit the school to help get him used to his new surroundings. Several teachers showed up in support of their “new student.”
Cooper monitors Kayden’s blood sugar levels by smell. He alerts her by pawing at her even while she is driving or can wake her up at night if there is an issue. In fact, while she sleeps he is hard at work. But, don’t feel too sorry for him. He gets five treats and a whole bunch of love every time he alerts her. He was trained with the smell of acetone for low blood sugar levels and the smell of a green apple Jolly Rancher for a high range. I watched him in action and it was a sight to behold.
The intense training service dogs obtain is shocking. The dogs are hand-picked and must pass tests such as a public access test and they must have a certain skill set depending on what kind of service dog they will be. Hundreds, if not thousands of hours of training go into teaching them which is one reason their cost is so high. Cooper came from Diabetic Alert Dogs of America and started his training at 10 weeks of age.
Some people say diabetic service dogs are more accurate and quicker at monitoring blood sugar levels than computerized devices. I spoke with a local dog training intern, Sherrod Ocker and asked her what the public needs to know about service dogs. Sherrod not only trains dogs but also has a diabetic service dog for herself. She made two strong very important points.
Never touch or interact with a service dog, known by the vests they wear, without permission. The dog is working and could be his owner’s hearing, seeing, seizure or diabetic alert dog and we don’t want to distract them from their job. And, if a dog ever approaches you wearing a vest but has no owner with it, follow the dog! His or her owner may need help.
While the price of a service dog is thousands of dollars they could potentially save a life and we all know life is priceless. Cindy Lawrence, Kayden’s grandmother said, “Upon arriving within two minutes he was working and alerted her that she was out of range. I have never seen anything like it.” While visiting with Bremen Fentress, Kayden’s mother, her eyes filled up with tears talking about how much peace of mind Cooper brings to the family, especially with Kayden becoming more independent.
The family has a couple of fundraisers planned as Kayden still has a few thousand dollars to raise for her sweet companion who not only brings comfort but could literally save her life. If you would like to contribute the go fund me page is “Kayden’s diabetic alert dog.” The two are documenting their journey on Instagram at cjthedad_.
Brooke DeLong, N.D.
“Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished.” ~Dean Koontz
Disclaimer: My goal is to empower and educate people to take control of their health, naturally. Please use common sense, visit with your health care provider and do your own research if something piques your interest.