Thursday, November 8, 2012

Who's your DADdy?

I recently accepted a {non-salary..volunteer} position as a clinical consultant with a dog breeder that also trains services animals, namely: Diabetes Alert Dogs. I help screen potential clients, and help them grasp who is, and is NOT, a good candidate for a dog. Oh your A1c was last done 2 years ago and was 13%? Ehhhhhhhhhh

For those of you not in the know, a diabetes alert dog is a service animal that has received 1,000+ hours of training to become a service/assistance dog that you're able to take everywhere, and is also trained to detect high and low blood glucoses in a handler. I've seen it happen, and it made me cry. Here is this sweet faced labrador that is telling someone that they need to check their sugar. it gives you goosebumps. What exactly are they smelling? We aren't quite certain. its not neccesarily the actual "sugar", its a shift in hormones that their super noses are able to pick up on (I wonder if they know I skipped my shower last night....). Its best done with a type 1 diabetic, as its somewhat a stunted occurance in type 2s...again, we aren't sure why. We are calling it "Factor X'...sounds like super CIA stuff, right? So any chemists out there that would like to do a study as to exactly WHAT these dogs are getting a whiff of, PLEASE, contact me ASAP.

For those of you with loved ones that suffer from severe hypoglycemia awareness, ya'll are the ones that can benefit the most from these pups. Being able to catch a downward swing long before its seizure time would be a blessing for anyone that has experieinced them in real life. They ain't fun. Seeing my husband seize, realizing I don't have glucagon in the house, and knowing I am at least 30 min away from an ambulance arriving at my house: NOT FUN, and the stuff that nightmares are made from. Imagine if that was your child? Well...I can't..I wouldn't want to. These dogs are beyond what we are even capable of knowing ourselves...and although they may have puppy breath, they will love you no matter what...even if you do look stupid trying to fit into your Spanx and fall over onto the floor. Not that I have ever done that. Ever.

These guys are service animals, they wear a vest, and can go anywhere with their handler. They begin socialization and training at age 4-6 weeks, and some have even been able to alert at the age of 9 weeks. Although, they are not ready to "go live" in a home until closer to 18 months of age. Training involves using saliva samples from a type 1 diabetic, placed in a vented tin that can be hidden anywhere on a person. The dog is then rewarded to recognize and paw (see: alert) when it smells this scent. And they use spit. To train a dog. I felt pretty dumb the first time I was 41 and standing in my kitchen shoving gauze in my mouth to collect a sample. Even stupider when I realized that my mouth was bright pink from the strawberry Jello I had just consumed.

Diabetes isn't sexy. I mean, I'm sexy..and have diabetes..that's different. Diabetes is work. Its a fulltime job on top of a full time life. So anything that is able to help someone live a life that's a little easier....why not??? Well, maybe the price tag. For the cost of a used vehicle, you can purchase a gently used DAD, fresh out of the tune of $25,000.00. But unlike a car, it poops, pees and burps in your face. Dogs need constant care and love, and a DAD is no different. They are there to serve you, not sit in a crate all day long. Some DAD trainers are able to get grants or organize fund raisers to assist in the purchase of these animals. Some (not so nice) trainers sell you a 12 week old puppy that has been "scent imprinted" and youre given a booklet to train the animal. There are not so nice trainers that will assure you your dog has endured hours upon hours of training, only for you to get home with a spazoid dog with ADD that shizzles on your shoe. As in any market, scammers are here. So you best do your research, yo.
And as this growing industry gets rid of some its stretch marks, we will have set standards that dogs must meet to be called a DAD. You wouldn't want a seeing eye dog that only guided 30% of the time when it was distracted. Same with a DAD. We need genetically sound, healthy animals, and non-asshole, smart trainers, that are working towards the greater good of diabetes betterment.

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