Helping is not our job. It's our passion!
We specialize in Diabetic Alert Dogs & Seizure Alert/Response Dogs
Our techniques are Patent Pending # 60/639,948
Our family first experienced type I diabetes on New Year's Eve of 2000. What a way to end a year! We had been to multiple doctors, asking what was wrong with our seven year old son, only to be told to "get a shrink" because I seemed to want something to be wrong with my son. We were told over and over that he "just had the flu".
He lost 12 pounds in 2 weeks. I got desperate and took our son to the Emergency room. Again, I was told he had a bad case of the flu and to go on home. They did give him an IV due to his being dehydrated.
I called my Momma-in-law and asked her to come sit with my daughters. I was scared that if I got too insistent, someone might feel it necessary to call the authorities. With her there, she could take the children if needed. I continued to ask that someone listen to the symptoms and tell me if there wasn't some other diagnosis. I became very verbal and frustrated. One doctor in particular heard me listing off the symptoms for the umpteenth time and chose to direct the doctor listening. Later we learned that the directing doctor had been diabetic (type II) for 35 years. He recognized the symptoms immediately. They drew blood and a urine sample by his direction and tested both.
When the doctor came back in to tell me what was wrong, I started to cry. He assured me that type I diabetes was manageable and not a death sentence. I didn't know much about diabetes at that time, but was crying from relief. I had been so scared that our son would die before we could figure out what was wrong. We now had an answer and it was manageable. Little did I know.
We drove our son to the Children's hospital, about an hour away, and were told there that had we waited another 12hrs, he would most likely have died. I can still remember the mixed feelings of relief, guilt, anger, and apprehension. We knew our lives were about to change drastically, but we had no idea how much so.
We stayed in the hospital with our son for a week, taking classes on type I diabetes management, how to administer multiple shots a day, measure every bite of food to the gram, convert those measurements to carb and protein ratios to meet with the "meal plan" requirements for each meal, schedule snacks, and balance our son's needs. It was scary yet we knew without a doubt how lucky we were. We met many other parents who would never get to take their child home and were watching them slowly die. I felt guilty for feeling lucky that my child "only had diabetes".
Six months went by, and life returned to "normal" as much as possible. We played guessing games as a family, as to who could guess the grams of a certain food serving. Whoever was closest won. Shots became as normal to us as eating. Measuring the foods was just part of the meal preparation, etc. When we were told our daughter had an 80% chance of developing type I diabetes, we weren't thrilled but knew we could manage it. After all, things were going smoothly with our son and the A1c's were all coming back looking great.
We were in the middle of trying to adopt and had put off such till we had the diabetes under control. We wanted another boy but had no idea that we would fall in love with a sibling group of 4 older children. We were thrilled and life seemed to be flowing again.
One night, we had a storm blow through and in our neck of the woods when they start talking about tornado warnings, you take shelter immediately. We placed our sleeping children in the basement on make-shift beds and stayed upstairs to watch the weather. The storm blew over and we chose to leave the children downstairs so as not to wake them up. About 2am, we woke to the most terrifying and guttural screaming. It was our son. I had no idea that he was in the middle of a seizure. I ran downstairs, loading the shotgun as I went, thinking someone had broke into our home. There our son lay on the floor unable to talk, eyes rolled back in his head, and thrashing about. Our daughters were terrified and screaming for my husband and I to help him. No one had told us about seizures. We had only been told to use the glucagon shot if he was having a "severe low". I immediately gave him the shot and held and rocked him while my husband called 911. That was our introduction to diabetic seizures.
I called our wonderful diabetes team the next morning. We were told this was just part of type I diabetes if you controlled the blood sugars tightly. He was now out of his "honeymoon" so these seizures were going to be more likely. The other choice was to let them run higher but then you risked permanent damage to internal organs as well as his extremities. Neither seemed like great choices to us, so we set it in our minds to never let this happen again.
I began setting 3-4 alarms at a time so that I wouldn't sleep through the alarm, every hour, on the hour, at night. My husband and I would then check his blood sugar levels and wake him for snacks when needed. Every night, at bedtime, we would all take our time going to bed as we dreaded the possibility. It was a fear mostly left unspoken, but as the children climbed the stairs to go to sleep looks were always exchanged and I'd do my best to fake a reassuring smile.
We now had 7 children, ranging in age from 7-15 and no sleep to speak of. Regardless of setting the multiple alarms, hourly, seizures would still occur in between the hourly checks. After 10 of these seizures, I got angry for the first time since my son's diagnosis. He was just a baby still. How could God let him live like this? I am not catholic, but had begun speaking with a dear priest who often times had answers to my theological questions. He reminded me that God gives us the answers. We just have to be listening.
Our son began refusing to go anywhere or do anything. He was terrified of having a seizure in public. He did not want his friends to see him like that and had a fear of having one while we were not there to help him. This was one of the orneriest little boys God had ever created and one of the most outgoing children I had ever seen who suddenly wanted nothing to do with other people or places. It was literally a battle just to get him to go to Church or a friend's home and even then, we had to be by his side the entire time. It was a night and day difference from the child he had been before the first seizure.
We almost lost our son on the 11th seizure. I have no way of conveying to someone who has not lived through these seizures the fear, absolute panic, complete feeling of helplessness, and pain of watching your child go through one. These seizures are your child's nervous system shutting down. In essence, they are dying.
I could not fall asleep after the 11th seizure. I kept thinking I had been praying for months with no answer from God and was sure I was listening for one. I felt as though I had somehow failed my child. I am a staunch believer but had begun to tire of people telling me that "it was all a part of God's plan". In order to stay awake that night, I got out on the internet and began to do searches looking for possible solutions from other diabetics. It was 5:45 in the morning when I got to page 13 of the 14 pages of possible matching links. The last link on that page told of a woman who had a St. Bernard Service Dog (for another disability) who had learned to alert her when her blood sugar levels got too low. He would then fetch her a soda from the fridge and stay by her side. She was hoping to live long enough to receive a pancreatic transplant.
It hit me that if a dog could figure this out on their own, there just HAD to be a way to train one to do it. So now I just had to figure out where to find the right dog and how to train it. Easy right? Ha!
I contacted a woman who had been very active in the Service Dog community for a number of years and asked her how one might pick out the right dog and asked for her advice on different ways to train them to alert on diabetes. I could be wrong, but I think when I told her what I planned to do, she thought I was "half-cracked". After all, everyone claimed dogs could not be trained to do this...they either did so naturally or not at all. We didn't have years to find one who did so naturally. She was very patient and did give me a number of things to think about as well as a good deal of great advice. We began trying out different dogs we would find through the pets ads and animal shelters. None worked out very well. One would alert wonderfully during the day but at night, he literally snored through the lows. The rest just had no clue.
I then began looking for a dog through a Service Dog organization. I figured if they could just help me find a dog that would make a good Service Dog, I could do the diabetes alert training. After all, they were telling me that it was impossible to train a dog to alert. It was their opinion that some would just naturally learn to alert but they were few and far between. I contacted every Service Dog organization that I could find listed on the internet who dealt with seizure response (dogs who will let you know that a seizure is in progress). Some couldn't help us and others just wouldn't. Of those who did respond, none of them would work with a child under the age of 14. I was getting desperate feeling again. I had just been so sure that this was God's answer for our son.
Finally, an email came back that started off with, "At the risk of sounding like all the others....". The lady who responded did not have a dog she could offer but did know of a lady who was selling some. The price was steep, considering it was an 8wk old pup...$1000.00. Please keep in mind we were cattle and horse people. Dogs were a pet of questionable origins that you fed twice a day and watched chase rabbits in the yard. This was a huge leap of faith for us but at this point we had nothing to lose except the money and we felt our son was worth quite a bit more than that. The problem was that we had little to none since we had just adopted 4 more children. We charged it to a credit card...something we had never done before and it scared us silly.
In the meantime, I read everything I could find on training dogs, service dog training, the psyche of a dog, etc. I probably asked a 1,000 questions of many different people and many of one lady in particular (who also directed me as to where to find our first dog). I was determined this was going to work and I didn't want my ignorance to be the reason it didn't. I read every book I could find on training dogs and a few even mentioned service dogs briefly. I read books on the dog's psyche and how to select a dog. I read books about various dog trainers and training techniques. If it had to do with a dog and could be found in book form or on the internet, I probably read it. At times, I spent all day reading and doing little to nothing else. I sometimes read 3-5 books at one time, switching out when I grew bored of one. I then drew up what I felt was as good a plan to actually train a dog to alert as I could muster. When I read through it, even I thought I'd lost it. However, my husband was extremely supportive and did nothing but encourage me to follow my gut.
Two weeks later, while the other children went to Karate lessons, my son and I met a plane in St. Louis Missouri to retrieve our 10wk old German Shepherd puppy named Delta. The first week was a flurry of adjustments and lots of questions and second guessing. Delta didn't seem to be anything but a puppy with a lot of energy and orneriness. She didn't seem to be overly attaching to our son, Joseph. Between Joseph's orneriness and Delta's, the household was a bit more "lively" than usual. Suddenly there was a crate in Joseph's bedroom and another in the front room for Delta. Squeaky toys, dog bones and chew toys were commonly littered about the house. Dog treats were everywhere in little zip lock bags, used for training treats. Everywhere we went, Delta went too. It was like carting a baby around again with all the puppy supplies needed (chew toy, crate, food and water, cleaning supplies in case she made a mess, etc).
Each day, multiple hours were spent working through the scent training exercises that we had decided to use. We had to take it slow and easy so as to overdo it with the pup. We could not work for more than 10 minutes at a time and had to make it fun, fun, fun!
Each night, Joseph would leash Delta up to the bed and snuggle up to her to go to sleep. He was quite confident that things would work out. We, his parents, weren't as trusting. Nothing seemed to be happening yet. He was still having his lows at night, although no seizures since Delta's arrival. I had to make a decision that scared me to death. I had to let my son sleep in his own room again and installed a baby monitor. For some time now, he had been unwilling to sleep anywhere but our bed and now he wanted to sleep on his own with his new dog.
One night during the second week, Delta decided to start barking through the night and would not quit making noise. The baby monitor in our room transmitted every bit of her barking right to our bedroom. We decided that she must need to go "potty". We took her outside to do her business and came back in. Everyone climbed back into bed and Delta started again. Again, we took her outside to do her business and this time she just took a walk. Again, everyone climbed back into bed and got comfortable. Again, Delta started fussing and would not quit licking Joseph's face. Joseph decided to get up with her and play for a bit since that was the only thing left to do. It was then he realized he was shaking and getting "low". It never dawned on anyone that Delta had possibly alerted. A few days went by with nothing happening and then Delta decided to whine nonstop during the middle of the night (2:30am). We would get up with her, assuming she wanted to go potty or play. This happened 3 nights in a row. Each time she would indeed go potty but would not calm down till it was figured out that Joseph was low. It finally dawned on everyone involved what was going on. Delta was alerting! It was explained that anytime you take a pup outside, they are indeed going to tinkle. She was just humoring them. Once Joseph had a snack and was no longer "low", she would curl up with him and go right back to sleep.
It has been a few years since Delta became part of our family, but we no longer know what we would do without her. She goes everywhere with us. She goes to restaurants, grocery shopping, Church, karate classes, the YMCA, and movies. Joseph once again spends the night with his best friend, goes to Sunday School without a parent, takes walks out in the woods with his siblings, and even sleeps in his own bed (although Delta might argue that it was hers). These are things he would not have dared to do on his own before. Delta has truly given Joseph back his independence, confidence and added a new dimension to his life.
Once our daughter, Alice, saw that her brother was able to avoid the seizures through the use of his Service Dog, she was determined to have one of her own. We trained a wonderful yellow lab, named Amber, for her, only to have her diagnosed with a fatal tumor. We have since trained yet another dog for Alice. He is a yellow lab named Lance and he has given Alice the ability, as a person with type I diabetes, to say that she has not ever experienced a diabetic seizure.
Once our children were taken care of we started training "diabetes/seizure alert" service dogs for others who would benefit from such, first by ourselves just to help and later, for another organization. God gave us our miracles. We wanted to share that with others. After doing such for some time, I began to find articles on the internet as well as in newspapers that showed my children and their dogs or another dog I had trained and stating it was trained by this other organization or their director. I was further told by one of the news reporters that the director had stated she did not feel I should talk to the media and refused to give them a way to contact me, claiming I had nothing to do with the training of these dogs. When I listened to a tape that one reporter had made of a conversation, I was no longer able to believe the lies the organization's director had given - that the media just tend to mix up facts. It was at that time that both my husband and I started to feel that we needed to leave that organization and move on.
We were then invited to go to NYC and do a small segment on Good Morning America that would tell about our children and their dogs and how this had helped us cope with the diabetes as a family. It was then that things "blew up" between myself and the other organization. The director wanted me to have our family go to the interview in the t-shirts that were marked with the organization's emblem, place emblems on the dog's packs, and wanted me to make sure to mention the organization multiple times or not go at all. The invitation was not intended as an advertising tool and we had been asked to dress in our Sunday Best and I felt we should honor that.
Furthermore, we had already left that organization, yet the director emailed Good Morning America, thanking them for inviting me as a representative of their organization. Other families I had been dealing with, while with that organization, then began to forward me emails from the director that were hateful and cruel and aimed at hurting my family, myself and our reputations. It was then that we, as a family, knew we had made the correct decision to leave that organization.
To this day, that organization shows pictures of my children's dogs (Delta and Amber (deceased), who were trained by myself and my daughter, on their website and claims to have trained them as well as a picture of Boomer, claiming to have trained him. Delta and Amber were never, at any time, trained by the other organization, nor was Boomer. Delta was bought by our family at 10 weeks of age, trained by myself, and continues to reside with us. Amber was given to our family at 8 weeks of age, trained by my daughter and myself and lived with us until the day she had to be put to sleep due to a fatal tumor. Boomer lived with us from the age of 8 weeks until the day he was placed. I drove almost weekly to his family's home to start the bonding process and help his young man develop the necessary handling skills. This was a 4 hour round trip as well as having the family in my home twice (once overnight). This went on from January till the day he was certified and placed in June.
This other organization further claims to have developed the techniques I developed to train my children's dogs and use to this day to train for others. To our knowledge, they have not trained another diabetes alert dog and must, instead, claim to have trained the dogs I trained as well as display their pictures and such. This is why we felt it necessary to patent our techniques and processes.
When we chose to become "official" and incorporate our own organization, it quickly became obvious we would need help from others to fulfill the need as applications poured in. We could not train more than 4-6 dogs a year by ourselves and there were areas of expertise that we could use more support in. To better provide for our clients, others have since joined us as volunteers to meet this need. Our volunteer panel of experts now consists of 2 Veterinarians, a psychologist & a Therapist for occupational therapy, an Endocrinologist, 2 Master Trainers, multiple long time Breeders, our very own "Dog Whisperer", several Puppy Raisers, 2 Attorneys, and a CPA .
Our clients are loyal and some of our best advocates. For their efforts and "word of mouth" testimony, we will always be grateful. For their willingness to jump in and help other families going through the same thing, we know they are priceless.
So much time and energy is given on a daily basis by our volunteers (several were once clients). We appreciate them more than we can express and know this has made so much more possible for our clients today and in the future.
For more program information please email or call: (573) 493-2627
108 Hwy PP, St. Elizabeth, Missouri 65075
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