Sherlock: Diabetic Alert Dog Update
When I agreed to raise and train Sherlock for Canine Hope for Diabetics, I didn’t think about the impact he would have on someone’s life. I just thought, I love puppies and won’t it be fun to raise another Golden? So, I took him home as a nine-week-old puppy, and I did what I do. We worked on crate training, place training, obedience and socialization. There were moments of frustration, like when he stole my sunglasses, chewed them up and left them in pieces in the backyard. But we got through it, and he grew up to be a loving, obedient dog. Turns out, Sherlock was born to work. I’m glad I could be a small part of that process.
Last month, Sherlock moved on to the next step in his training, real time scent work. (If you’d like to read about how I started scent training with Sherlock, check out this post.) The best way to train a diabetic alert dog is to have him live with a diabetic that knows to reward alerts. As you might imagine, there are not a lot of these people! Sherlock was very lucky because he got to go and work with Luke and his family.
Luke has a diabetic alert dog named Jedi, and at first Jedi did all of the alerts. But, Sherlock watched when Jedi caught a low, was encouraged to grab the bringsel, and then given a reward. As his training progressed, Sherlock made the connection between the smell of Luke’s low blood sugar, grabbing the bringsel and earning a reward. The good news is that now Sherlock alerting on his own! He has a few more weeks of training on real time alerts, and then he’ll be placed with his forever family.
Last weekend, I got to visit Sherlock when a group from Canine Hope for Diabetics met up at the Orange County Fair. Sherlock was a bit excited when he saw me and jumped up for a hug. I may have hugged him back, but only for a second. Then, it was right back to being a well behaved working dog out at the fair. We looked at goats and art and I tried the fried zucchini. (Which was, unfortunately, still hard in the middle and extremely expensive.)
Besides seeing Sherlock, I spent time with other diabetics and their dogs. I must tell you, they were amazing. Not only did the dogs alert in the craziness of the fair, the people provided a support system to one and other. They talked about how high fat fair food is, and how to beat it you need to max out the insulin on your pump. They carried an extra pair of dog booties so if someone forgot theirs, they could help. (Dogs’ pads burn on the hot blacktop! Ruffwear were the booties of choice!) They talked and walked and cared about each other. I wish every diabetic had that kind of support system in place.
Sherlock still has a few weeks of training left, but he’s beginning to work with the people that will become his forever family. He’ll have his very own little girl, London, who was diagnosed with diabetes at sixteen months of age. The night time lows, the growth spurts and the swimming lessons, everything London does causes a change in her sugars. It’s a math problem with variables that never stay the same. I cannot imagine the constant anxiety of having a toddler that is diabetic. Sherlock will help her parents control her blood sugars, and, hopefully, ease their worries.
Canine Hope for Diabetics allows people to feel supported with a disease that is overwhelming at best, terrifying and life threating at worst. That’s the thing about diabetes, it’s hard to control because you have to watch what you eat for every meal, every day, every night. You can’t beat it, and you must keep at it.
I’m glad I agreed to raise Sherlock, but more than that I’m glad I met such kind people along the way. It’s so trite, I hesitate to write it here. Ah well, I must. The more you give the more you receive.
Thank you Sherlock.