It is difficult to capture the emotions of the workshop I recently attended for Diabetic Alert Dogs (DADs), it is just something you have experience. To see and feel the love, the bonding, and connection between the mothers of these children afflicted with the silent looming disease of diabetes and their diabetic alert dogs is like witnessing a miracle. I’m not saying that there is more love for the child or dog in this relationship than others, we all love our dogs and children very much; it is the specialness of this triad that I am referring to. It is so special and so strong in fact that we are beginning to see some pretty remarkable things occurring as a result.
In the early 70’s a friend of mine was working towards her degree in Psychology. She owned a big black Labrador named Trooper whom she had trained to do some pretty neat tricks. My friend got the idea for a study as part of her required university work, to look at the telepathic abilities between dogs and their owners. Experiments were set up where an owner would give commands to the dog that was separated from his owner by a wall, while observers would watch and record what the dog did. For the most part there was no meaningful data to support that dogs had telepathic abilities. Yet many owners report things like the dog getting excited a full 10 minutes or more before the car of their beloved owner even pulls into the neighborhood. They can’t hear it, they can’t smell it, no one has said anything, and it can be at different times of the day; how do they do it? Science might not yet be able to prove or even offer an explanation of how things in these anecdotal stories occurs, but I can tell you I saw some things first hand at the workshop that I am sure are real even if hard to believe.
DADs live and work round the clock to help their people monitor blood glucose levels. No one knows quite what it is they smell, but they are really good at it and regularly alert to changes long before the fancy glucose meters. But they do something that no meter or any man made instrument can even come to close to comparing with; some of the DADs are capable of Remote Sensing. I witnessed this phenomena first hand. We were all sitting around a break out room at the conference. There were moms with their children’s DADs and then trainers like myself without dogs. The children were about ½ mile away with adult chaperones splashing in the lake trying to stay cool from the blistering Mississippi heat. There was a DAD lying on the floor between me and next to the mom of a diabetic child who was at the lake. During the presentation that was being given, I began to notice the dog getting restless. I watched as the dog got up, grabbed it’s training aid that was hanging from the mom’s belt which is an indication of an “alert”. The mom quietly praised the dog and texted the adult watching the children at the lake to have them check her child’s blood glucose level. In a few moments the mom got a text message back saying that the child’s level had in fact dropped and they were able to catch it in time. The dog then lay back down. Things continued on as all was OK now with the child. I just witnessed a miracle; a DAD alerting accurately on a child a ½ mile away. WOW. What do you say to something like that? I was so awe struck that it took me several minutes for the whole scene to sink in!
I have read many stories about owners who had deep bonds with their dogs and some of the incredible things they have done, but nothing compares to the bond the DAD shares with their diabetic child and the mother. To develop that bond requires a dedication of time, love and effort which these moms and their children have demonstrated will bring out these yet to be understood but truly remarkable abilities of these extraordinary canines.