Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bad Reasons For Getting a Diabetic Alert Dog

I was at a doctor’s office this week when the following conversation came up with a perfect stranger. She is telling me she has a 17-year-old son who is going to college and that her daughter is getting up and testing this kid every hour in the middle of the night.  She is also telling me that her daughter is moving so her son can live with her while going to college and she can continue to check him.  I ask how old the daughter was….she was 23.  I ask what her role was in all this…”she says oh I have to work and to be honest “I just can’t handle it”.  She says “we should get a D.A.D., it would make my daughters life easier”. The conversation goes on… she says “How often do your dogs miss a low?” I hedged and replied “well I always try to remember they are dogs first and foremost!”  She says “well why would you put all that time and effort if they are not going to do their job?”  “ I would have to get rid of them if they aren’t going to help!”  “Would you be willing to sell your dog?” “Can I get your number?”

Thank You, Lord I was called back to see the doctor, but I will tell you my blood pressure was high! It is not my place to judge anyone else.  Hey this disease is a horrible thing for everyone involved…but there is just so many things that bugs me about what she said to me.  In her case, hiring a personal assistant would be a better idea.  I just wonder how long it will be before the personal assistant says DO IT YOURSELF!  I guess just about anything can be bought now days, but it would be a very cold day before I allowed any dog that I have control over into an environment like that!

Can you imagine the dog’s perspective of trying to alert when someone is yelling at the diabetic for not taking better care of their self?  Can you imagine what happens if a D.A.D.,  misses an alert and all the sudden they are blamed for a low blood sugar?  The sad thing is that I hear stories like this all to often.  Either families are not emotionally, physically, or mentally able to take on another challenge…or all their hopes are pinned on a D.A.D.,  and when it doesn’t work out it is the dogs fault.  THEY ARE DOGS!!!!!  DOGS ARE ANOTHER TOOL IN THE BATTLE AGAINST THIS CRUMMY DISEASE!  THEY ARE A FRIEND IN A TIME OF NEED!!!  They are many things, but always and ever a dog! Just like us they have good days and bad days.   Even when a dog is fully trained, training always continues.  It is fined tuned or something new is taught.  Just like us if the dog gets stagnant, they get bored!

Training a dog is never an easy task.  I get many questions about how to train a diabetic alert dog…I get even more questions about how to train a dog.  I have been pondering these questions a lot lately.  It seems I always answer this question by asking a question…ARE YOU READY FOR A DOG?  Or ARE YOU READY TO MAKE SOME VERY SERIOUS CHANGES IN ORDER TO GET A DOG WHERE YOU WANT THEM TO BE?

Obtaining a dog should require A LOT of forethought before bringing one home.  It is not a decision that should be made lightly!  Yes dogs are humankind’s best friend but we also have RESONSIBILITY about how we interact with them.  If your home is utter chaos with tempers flaring, lots of yelling, and in general an unhappy place to be…do you really think that a dog is a good idea?  If your home is a place where no one can make a decision and no one wants to take responsibility for their own actions or where one person is trying to fix everyone else’s problems…do you really think a dog is a good idea?  In the case of a DAD, if the active diabetic really doesn’t want a dog and doesn’t want the added responsibility of a dog or doesn’t have the wherewithal to build a active relationship with a dog…do you really think that getting a dog is a good idea? The whole idea of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILTY and dogs is CRITICAL!

Diabetic Alert Dogs in particular require HOURS AND HOURS of TRAINING and CARE!  Their needs must be met as well…as much of a blessing my guys are to me, they are also a lot of work.  I don’t mind it one bit as what I give to them seems so pale as to what I receive from them…but I thought I would give you a breakdown of a fairly typical day for me.  I wake up around 6 AM, go to bathroom, let dogs out, check my blood glucose, and let dogs back in. I then feed the dogs and while they eat I take a shower.  I then eat breakfast and take dogs for a walk or some sort of exercise.  I come back and do some sort of training.  It might be obedience, agility, field, or scent.  Sometimes I just use the time to teach Radar some stupid pet trick.  I then go to work.  One of the dogs then goes to work with me while the other one is in a port a kennel at home.  As soon as I get home from work the morning process repeats its self.  I let dogs out, feed, and then do more training.  Even though both dogs are alerting, THE TRAINING PROCESS NEVER ENDS!  Even when I am not formally training there are still certain standards that must be met and adhered to or I might just have to have a “in the moment” training session.  SIT always should mean SIT.  HERE should always mean come right now.  Every command needs to be responded to.  It should be prompt and not when the dog decides it is good and ready to do it. 

Several years back while at an AKC Hunt Test I and my chocolate lab named Hooter failed the test. I came off the line and mumbled something about “It is all my fault”.  A guy who I have a lot of respect for says “KC, Why do you always blame yourself when your dog fails?” I replied “cause it usually has something to do with me not teaching them all the necessary tasks that they need to know”.  He says, “well that is true most of the time, but sometimes they are just dogs!”  No matter how well trained they are, SOME TIMES THEY ARE JUST DOGS!  As a D.A.D. Bravo has missed one low since August of last year…it was a 78 (not truly considered a low) and it was due to the insulin not this other weird thing I have.  That is a pretty amazing record in my opinion. However, if he ever misses I will still love him and be grateful for what he does give me!  A diabetic alert dog can make a huge difference in a human life…but please do it for the right reason and with the right attitude!

1 comment:

  1. Oh my, I am proud of you that you didn't just belt her. Sorry, but that just gets my blood boiling. Yeah, sounds like even a "personal assistant" wouldn't be good enough for her.

    Training stops when the dog is gone, otherwise it is a lifetime journey. I always say 'what you put in is what you'll get out".
    And yes, they are dogs, living loving creatures, not machines.

    Give that Bravo another hug today.