DOGS FOR DIABETICS
August 5, 2010
My daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was six years old. I often marvel at how well she has adapted, given that her life after diagnosis was filled with needles, insulin, and constant queries about how she felt and what she had eaten. Despite her seeming acceptance, she could never say that having diabetes was fun ... until August 2008. In August 2008, Dogs for Diabetics partnered my daughter with Colton, a yellow laborador/golden cross trained to alert on hypoglycemic episodes (low blood sugars). Suddenly, my daughter had a four legged friend and a partner in her diabetes care who helped in a way that neither I nor any other person ever could. He became her playmate, her faithful companion, and her vigilant guardian ready to let her know when she needs to check her blood sugar. He has saved her from serious medical emergencies when her blood sugars were dropping without our knowledge. He has brought joy, laughter, and fun into her life with diabetes (as one passerby put it - "That's so awesome - not that you have diabetes, but that you have a dog to help you with it!").
My family and I are active volunteers with Dogs for Diabetics - or D4D as we all refer to it. D4D is a California non-profit based in Concord, California. It receives dogs donated from Guide Dogs for the Blind (San Raphael) and trains them to detect and alert on low blood sugar levels in insulin dependent diabetics. Once trained, D4D places these dogs with clients free of charge. These service dogs have public access rights and accompany their diabetics at all times. D4D dogs not only provide life saving services, they help with depression, fitness (they still need to be walked even if they are out and about with you all day!), and independent living - free of the fear of unpredictable and sudden drops in blood sugar and the need for constant monitoring.
D4D's services do not end once they place a dog with you - in fact, their services are probably just starting! They provide a forum for insulin dependent diabetics to get together to talk about their questions, lives, concerns, fears, and hopes. My daughter (and I) has maintained friendships with other clients and volunteers met through D4D, connected through their dogs, their disease, and their love for each other.
I should note that I am also a board member for D4D but my first and strongest connection through this group was as a parent of a client and a volunteer. I thank them every day for the love that they have brought into my daughter's life.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
the partnering of my daughter and her medical alert dog Colton. They have been together for two years now and are inseparable. He has prevented severe medical emergencies for her(and some of her insulin diabetic friends). He has given her a better life
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
wish that D4D grows as large as Guide Dogs for the Blind so that all insulin dependent diabetics, not just those in the Western U.S., could have a chance to have one of these wonderful dogs in their lives.
What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...
meeting other people who go through the same struggles that I go through as a parent of a type 1 diabetic or that my daughter goes through as an insulin dependent diabetic (and having such wonderful dogs in my life to love).
The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...
kind, caring, experienced, supportive, funny, and non-judgmental.
If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...
begin to provide medical alert dogs to suitable insulin dependent diabetics worldwide and not just in the Western U.S.
Ways to make it better...
I lived closer to Concord and could foster a dog in training so that I could see one all the way through the release from Guide Dog kennels to placement with an insulin dependent diabetic.
In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...
funding - since the dogs are placed free of charge, D4D relies on volunteers, donations and fundraisers to support their efforts.
One thing I'd also say is that...
Diabetes is a disease that is growing at exponential rates. For those with type 1 diabetes, there is no cure -- my daughter will always be a type 1 diabetic until a cure is found. Until then, D4D has given her something of immeasurable value for today.
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?
Volunteer & My family and I help with dog fostering, dog care, and training.
Review from Guidestar