Diabetic Alert Dogs…A Real Game Changer

 We very much appreciate two wonderful articles written by guest blogger, Elizabeth  Vaughn Gallagher.  Mrs. Gallagher is a graduate of Louisiana State University.  Her business career began after graduation as a flight attendant with Delta Airlines.  She went on to jobs in customer service  and retail, working for Coach for 12 1/2 years.  She has a son and daughter.  Her daughter and three grandchildren  live near her in Greenville, South Carolina.  Six years ago Elizabeth was given a little dog, Tabouli, who became a very important member of the Gallagher family.  We think you will be impressed with how well this little dog has served and helped this wonderful family, first as a service dog for a dementia patient, now as a Diabetic Alert Dog.  
Properly trained Diabetic Alert Dogs (DAD) can be a real game changer for people with Diabetes.  Since the disease has no rules, it is extremely helpful to have another line of defense in maintaining a safe blood glucose level.  These Service Dogs are able to tell when a person’s blood glucose is at an unsafe level by using their sensitive noses. They are trained to alert the diabetic or a parent, if the patient is a child, when the odor is present.  Dogs often can sense the changes before the person feels the drop. My DAD (Diabetic Alert Dog), Tabouli, will sniff and paw to alert me to a problem so I can check my levels.
Diabetic Alert Dogs are particularly helpful at night when the person is sleeping and is unaware they are in trouble.  Some diabetics are not able to tell their glucose has dropped but a trained dog will persist with the alerts until the person does something to help him or herself, or the dog will go find another person to help.  It definitely can be a lifesaver.  Many dogs are trained to bring the monitor and other supplies to their person,  or to get a juice container from the refrigerator.
DADs are working dogs and NOT pets. The public needs to respect that when they are working in public places they should not interfere by talking to or petting the service dog.  Obedience training at the highest levels is a must for DADs. The dogs must be able to pass a public access obedience test to show they are under control and safe to the public.  Proper behavior in any situation is a necessity and expected.
It can take up to about two years to accomplish all the training.  It is best for the training to begin when the dog is a very young puppy but dogs of any age can be trained.  Tabouli trained with Debby Kay’s Super Sniffer® Program in Harpers Ferry, WV.  Kay is a world-renowned trainer of Detection Dogs.  Sue Conklin, The Puppy Nanny in Simpsonville, SC, did his follow up training once we got back home.  Training continues everyday to make certain that Tabouli stays sharp and aware of his job. Tabouli is a mixed breed with an incredible nose, but Labradors and Golden Retrievers are seen more often doing this job due to their strong work ethic and innate scenting ability.
DADs go everywhere their owners go. Recently I traveled to the Caribbean where service dogs like Tabouli are not widely accepted and there are no laws allowing them access anywhere. When flying, I found it was nice to have the smaller dog. I think that people find a smaller dog easier to accept.
Due to his impeccable manners Tabouli was granted privileges not previously given to dogs, and paved the way, we hope, for others to follow.

My husband, Paul, passed away at home on May 11, 2014, from dementia. As anyone who has dealt with this disease knows, it is a difficult journey.
I was fortunate to have been given a wonderful little mixed breed dog named Tabouli who became a service dog for my husband Paul.
Realizing what an important role Tabouli played in our lives, I had him trained and registered as a therapy dog, which enabled him to be taken to nursing homes and hospitals to comfort others.
Tabouli’s work as a mobility and medical alert dog provided security, while his presence brought comfort. Many people living with dementia tend to walk slowly and tentatively. Tabouli was trained to help Paul pick up his pace and walk with confidence. When shopping with Paul and Tabouli, I could give a “Sit/Stay” command if I needed to speak with someone or when I needed to check out. Tabouli wouldn’t move until I gave him the “Free” command, so I knew Paul would not wander away. One of the most significant areas of Tabouli’s service came at night. If Paul awakened and tried to walk, Tabouli would wake me. Because of this little dog, I didn’t have to worry that my husband would get up and fall. Some people living with dementia have imaginary friends that can be frightening. I convinced Paul that no one could bother him with Tabouli by his side and then he would smile and relax.
There are many ways service dogs can help people living with dementia. They can be trained to block a door to prevent wandering or to guide a person gently back to their seat. They can provide physical support if a person falls or, through scent training, bring someone home if they’ve become lost on a walk. Dogs can interrupt agitation and provide immense comfort just by sitting in a lap quietly. If you’re interested in how service or therapy dog can help in your home, a professional trainer in your area may be a good place to start.
Tabouli was at Paul’s side when he passed away and by my side at Paul’s funeral. He was Paul’s little buddy and grieved his passing for over two months. Dogs often outlive the companions they serve. It is important to make sure the dog knows a person has passed away so they don’t continue to look for them to return.
Tabouli has now become my emotional support. I am convinced he was heaven-sent. He continues to be a dog on a mission, taking his job seriously and with confidence.
If you have any questions, please contact me. I would be glad to hear from anyone who might be considering getting a dog for his or her loved one.