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I've just returned from an "ABCs of D4D" session held today in Concord, California (San Francisco Bay Area). I know that this topic has been covered before but I thought some of you may be interested in the topic.

D4D Description

As explained on the Dogs 4 Diabetics web site (

"Dogs4Diabetics is an innovative non-profit organization that provides quality medical alert assistance dogs to youth and adults who are insulin-dependent type 1 diabetics through a program of training, placement, and follow-up services."

"Dogs4Diabetics assistance dogs have been specifically trained to identify, and more importantly, act upon the subtle scent changes that hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) creates in body chemistry, changes undetectable to their human companions."

The D4D staff routinely runs this session periodically to acquaint interested diabetics, potential volunteers and others about their program. The session ran about one and one half hours.

Volunteers empower D4D

This non-profit group places trained dogs with Type 1 diabetics to alert them to hypoglycemia. (D4D relies heavily on the services of volunteers; it has only three paid staff members and over 103 volunteers.) It has placed about 55 dogs already and it hopes to place about 27 during the next year or so. It has recently enlarged its target service area to include both northern and southern California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Interested T1 diabetics can start the application process online. The long form application runs to 15 pages and part of the application must be filled out by the diabetic's doctor.

About 12 people attended this session which included four T1 diabetics, some interested potential volunteers, and a diabetes educator. This varied group listened to Carol, a dog trainer for D4D (I'm sure her real-world title and responsibilities are far more impressive!), explain how D4D evolved and what they seek to accomplish. Carol presented with her German Shepherd. Brianna, a D4D volunteer and her D4D diabetes service dog, Desi, also provided commentary.

Powerful video shows D4D benefits

After taking some questions about life with a diabetes service dog (Can you bring the dog to work? Yes, but some jobs, like a chef, may preclude placement.), Carol showed a video intended as a fund raiser that featured various people that have benefitted from a D4D dog.

One featured family contained four young children, three T1s. Their D4D dog stayed home and worked the "night shift." If one of the three diabetic children started to go low during the night, this dog would alert the parents and then rush to indicate which of the children needed help. The mother, in particular, expressed extreme gratitude and relief that she could depend on the dog to protect her children and also allow her the chance to relax and get a night's rest.

Another family shown on the video included a 13 year old girl, a T1, with an interest in gymnastics. The video showed her working out with cuts to her mother expressing the great relief that she felt that the dog could alert her daughter to any diabetic danger; she then could be relieved of the role of "nag." Both mother and daughter comfortably eased into this new dynamic.

Desi alerts

While our session moved forward, Brianna's black labrador "alerted" as it recognized that one of the session's T1 attendees was going low. Desi gave Brianna "the look" that Brianna interpreted Desi as saying "there's a low going on, I know it's not you, but it's still happening." The T1 a few chairs to my right got up to deal with his low blood sugar.

I was totally impressed with the idea of diabetic service dogs. I have shouldered 100% of the responsibility for managing my diabetes. Here I'm now looking at the potential to share that responsibility with another living being. A diabetic service dog could easily wake me up from a life-threatening low. This could save me from becoming another tally in the "dead-in-bed" column!

I live alone. I have no safety net to back me up when the chips are down. These dogs exude loyalty and companionship. I had to fight back tears during the video presentation. Only a T1 diabetic can fully understand the haunting fear of lows that stalk you unaware as well as night-time hypos.

I was totally impressed with the D4D program. I intend to submit a long form application in the near future.

Is anyone else considering a diabetic service dog?

Tags: Diabetic service dogs

Views: 1032

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Replies to This Discussion

Terry, thank you for sharing your experiences and I'm looking forward to hearing much more from you!
Forgive my Saturday night brain...CHO content?
Terry, I'm anxious to hear about your new dog!! What kind of dog did you get? How are things going? Can you give an update about your experience? Thanks!!

Thanks for your interest. I am in the second week of a two-week (11 training days) course at the Dogs for Diabetics training facility in Concord, California. The training is thorough, fun, and exhausting. I'll write more when the training is over; it ends this Friday, April 2.

They placed with me a beautiful two-year old male yellow Lab named Norm. Norm is playful, energetic, and has a great nose for falling blood sugars. His alert is determined and sustained.

I plan to sail my live-aboard sailboat this Saturday from a marina near the D4D training center back to my home port in the south San Francisco Bay. Norm will be sporting a new dog flotation jacket from RuffWear. (I have no affiliation or commercial interest in this firm.) RuffWear gives a substantial discount to service dog owners.

I'll write more as my life settles down into a more normal routine. Norm is a great dog and I look forward to building a strong bond with him.

I have a Diabetic alert dog named Dutchess and she is truly a blessing. She is really an aggressive alerter. I did have an incident last week i was just too weak to get my glucose tabs and test kit but Dutchess was trained to retreive them for me. My roommates were not home like they normally would be. Im not sure what i would have done. I couldnt reach my cellphone either. So having her was a lifesaver.

I was really fortunate that i was properly matched with the right dog. I walked into the Kennel and I saw her for the first time and i knew i loved her and she loved me. She is so sweet and truly loves working. I just can't say enough about my dog she makes my life so much easier everyday. Spending two years with hypoglycemia unawareness and not finding anything to help catch my lows she has changed my life in a postive direction. She actually currently attend college with me and has impressed everyone so much that i now am doing speaking events with Dutchess on campus about diabetic alert dogs.

Terry congratulations on getting Norm. Im sure you are loving him already. Im sure you will bond with him quite quickly. I know i did with my dog. Im glad to hear more people are able to get diabetic alert dogs.
Tarra, Can I interview you about this topic? I'm writing an article for Diabetes Health about alert dogs.
I would love to help out Amy. I know i feel so blessed just to have my service dog.
Great! Thank you. Do you prefer to talk on the phone or should I send you questions via email?
I am open to either way. What ever would make things easier for you.
can I call you right now? Just to get some basic info?
Tara, thanks for the good wishes. It sounds like you have a great partner in Dutchess.

I've been with Norm for over six months now. It has been a life-changing experience. I've never had a dog before and I'm enjoyed his company immensely. Norm's hypo alert skills are getting better every week. He now is waking me up at night so that I can treat low blood sugars in a timely fashion. Things are going well with my diabetes control - finally!

I've been as high as 8.5% in my A1c in the last few years. It was quite a struggle to lower that number. I just got word from my doctor that my last A1c was 6.0%. I'm thrilled and give Norm a good portion of the credit. I'm so lucky to have him.

You're right about the bond that grows with your dog. He often knows what I want before I give him a command. It makes living with him a pleasure. Good luck with your continuing success with Dutchess.
Hey Terri,

I know i have always struggled with my blood sugars as well. I have the dawn phenomenon which makes things complicated. I actually didn't realize i was having lows around midnight to 1 am area until i got Dutchess she has alerted to my lows at night since day one which is great. Norm sounds like a great partner.

Glad to hear your A1c has improved so much that is wonderful. Keep up the good work.




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