Man’s — and a diabetic’s — best friend

Published 12:59 pm Monday, December 28, 2015

A dog can track a criminal, it can detect small amounts of drugs — it will disarm an armed subject without any commands — it can detect cancer in humans. It will protect private property. It can learn more than 100 voice commands.

Meanwhile, a cat knows how to use a litter box.

How did I get started on this? Caroline, a 13-year-old girl that is a member of the church I attend, is never seen without her Golden Retriever, a handsome, loving animal. The dog is trained to detect any problem, large or small, connected with diabetes.

Let me add to the story. Recently, the animal alerted friends of a man who was standing nearby. It seems he was about to have a diabetic attack. The dog ‘knew’ what was going on and acted as a warning signal before anything bad happened.

According to Caroline’s mom, Leah, the animal is also ‘aware’ of any possible emotional issue. Getting the mid-western dog to its new home was costly but, obviously, well worth the cost. Horses are sometimes used for the same purpose, “but,” Leah said, “a lot of kids have problems with horses.”

An organization called Diabetes Assist Dogs (DAD) trains its animals to monitor smells in the air for a scent on the human breath that is related to rapidly dropping or low blood sugar levels. Then, they’re trained to ‘alert’ the person with diabetes, usually by touching them in a significant way such as pawing or nudging them. This alerts the person to check his or her blood sugar level before the problem becomes dangerous.

DAD animals wear a backpack identifying them as an assistance canine. According to information from the organization, those backpacks have pockets containing medical information.

The question many people ask concerns the animal’s training. It begins at ‘puppy-hood’ when the dogs are checked for their willingness to work and, their noses are evaluated for sensitivity. When all looks well and good their scent training starts.

“A person experiencing hypoglycemia produces a particular scent that’s found on the breath due to the body’s chemical changes,” according to DAD. “Our training methods are similar to those used to train drug sniffing, or search and rescue dogs that are trained to find people.”

Steve Lane, who owns Radio Cafe Hertford, which carries my broadcasts, has long been a part of that scenario, working with his weimariner, Dakota, and that piqued my interest even though the animal has long been away from the scene. When he was part of the scene he would be called on to go anywhere and everywhere across the country.

You know about the magnificent seeing eye dogs. In one case, it’s dogs working for dog. Jessica VanHusen of Waterford, Michigan has two healthy dogs that have been trained to help a 10-year-old blind dog. She gets around with the help of her canine friends. She suffered from glaucoma and had to have her eyes removed. The three dogs are Akitas.

There is the case of a 2-year-old dog who leads his blind canine friend on a leash which he carries in his mouth. The two animals are inseparable.

And, believe it or not, monkeys, ferrets, parrots, and pigs can do similar work. Well, I said ‘believe it or not’ so, you’re on your own.

Hey, who’s the most famous dog? Could be Lassie who was constantly finding Timmy who was constantly getting lost or falling into wells or, it could be Dorothy’s little black canine – Toto who came from Kansas – in the movies at least. He was actually an Atlanta resident. ‘Woof – y’all’.

More animal stuff: A horse named Charlie is led by a goat. True. And, so is this: Two miniature horses who have disabilities are led by a ‘fellow’ horse. When the animal with problems becomes disoriented, his friends lead him back to home base.

FRANK ROBERTS, who is 86, spent 60 years writing and talking. He and his wife, Valeria, have three children, five grandchildren, and two great-granddaughters. He loves to write.