Life with a Diabetes Alert Dog – Part 1

A Guest Blog By Emma Kleck, Carb DM’s Outgoing Program Assistant

I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2001. It’s amazing to think back on the advances in technology; I started my T1D management with a Minimed 507 and a BD meter that took what felt like a tablespoon of blood. Everything on the diabetes market since then has made living with T1D more manageable in one way or another. The most valuable tool, however, came in the form of a black, furry, playful dog.

I am approaching my third “anniversary” of being paired with Fleur, my diabetes alert dog, and it is a great time to look back at how my life has changed. I started looking into diabetes alert dogs when I began college. I never had issues with detecting hypoglycemia until my freshman year. Suddenly, I found myself dropping to the 40s with no warning; either I had diabetes for too long and got accustomed to the lows, or I was just too involved in studying, friends, or anything else a college freshman can get distracted by to notice my blood sugar dropping. I had worn a Minimed CGM a few years prior to college, and did not want to go down that road again. Instead, I started researching diabetes alert dogs.

I was drawn to the fact that these dogs alert before the lows happen. I needed the extra time that came with the alert. My active lifestyle in college meant that my blood sugar dropped quickly, and even a five-minute warning could help me avoid the horrible symptoms that accompanied hypoglycemia.

Fleur alerts me whenever my blood sugar changes rapidly, and will usually pick up on the slow drops as well. When she alerts me, I either check my blood sugar or glance at my Dexcom (I started using a CGM about a year and a half ago). If my BG is target but I have insulin on board, I call that a good alert, and give Fleur a treat! If my BG is target with no IOB, I keep a close eye on it for the next half hour. When Fleur alerts, my Dexcom usually doesn’t show trends until about twenty minutes after the alert. It is a great tool to use in conjunction with a diabetes alert dog. With Fleur’s help, I have managed to avoid a lot of low BGs, simply because I have extra time to treat the low before it happens!

Fleur also picks up on quick rises, or high blood sugar. This was not something she was trained for, but she picked up the skill quickly. She will always alert after a high-carb meal, and also gives me warning when my BG starts to rise for no reason. With these alerts, I am more careful because I don’t know how quickly my BG is rising, but I can still rely on her (along with my meter or Dexcom) and be proactive to avoid large spikes.

Fleur goes everywhere with me, and I am like a walking advertisement for type 1 diabetes and diabetes alert dogs. That’s okay, though, because every time someone asks me about her, I can educate them about T1D and how amazing these dogs are! Fleur has worked in a pharmacy, graduated from college (she got her own honorary degree), rode the NYC subway, marched in a college marching band during football halftime, attended countless Marvel movies, and will be going through nursing school with me. She is my safety net, and with her around, I feel safer knowing that there is another living being watching out for my blood sugar levels. Having a dog bother me to check my BG levels is much better than a parent or a friend. Besides, who can resist those cute eyes?

I got Fleur from Early Alert Canines. Stay tuned for another post about this amazing organization!

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Read part 2 of the Emma’s story where she shares the story of Early Alert Canines, the organization that trained Fleur and turned then into a winning team.

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