Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Written by a friend and fellow DAD owner

This was written by a friend of mine who has an amazing DAD name Gracie that she self trained and a T1 daughter.  Here is the link to the original post https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=418738131499763&id=242606235779621&notif_t=feed_comment_reply and it is reprinted here with her permission  Thank you Shana Eppler!

I am not a blogger....I'm a quick poster. However, something has been bothering me that I feel I need to address.

Many people read about Gracie and other DADs and automatically think "I want that!" Gracie is a life saver. She is a blessing from God, BUT having a DAD is big responsibility. It is a 24/7 job. Having a DAD means checking more often.....getting woke up more at night....dealing with a DAD that's alerting while dealing with a low/high child. It's a lot to have on your plate. It's not all fun and games. It is work.

I researched DADs before I put down a deposit with a breeder in early October 2009. I knew my puppy would not be coming home with me until April/May 2010. I had a 7 month wait. I went to DAD conferences. I talked to trainers. I read every book on dog training that I could get my hands on. I read about different training methods. I talked to diabetics who had DADs. I picked their brains. I took notes and took notes. I practiced teaching obedience to our family pet. I planned ahead.

When Gracie became ours on April 30, 2010, I was prepared as best as I could be. I had a plan. I took May through the end of August off and did nothing but train 24/7. I had Gracie on a training schedule. I trained her multiple times a day on obedience skills. She watched every single blood glucose check at night and during the day from night one on. She went everywhere we went. Every moment was a training opportunity.

I am finding that many people see the end result and jump in feet first having no clue what they are doing. They do not do their research. They do not ask questions or take notes. If they do ask questions, they hear what they want to hear. Often they ask questions and then do just the opposite. They see what they want and act on it without thinking, and then they are surprised when things don't work out the way they thought it would.

Talk to people who have DADs. Talk to several people who have DADs that actually alert at night and during the day. Pay attention to their advice. Listen to what they have learned....what they have lived through. Listen to the breeds they recommend. There's a reason why some breeds work better than others. Listen to the training advice they give. They have been there, done that. They know what works and what doesn't.

I guess the point I'm getting at is prepare yourself. Put just as much effort into researching DADs and training a DAD as you put into researching and learning about diabetes. Take it slow. Educate yourself. You'll be a lot better off in the end.

Well said Shana!

It Takes Everyone

I was driving to work and thinking about what all goes into a diabetic alert dog.  The amount of training, the amount of teaching, the tears, the fears, and all the different ways it can be done.  I came to a very simple conclusion...IT TAKES EVERYONE being committed. Not just the diabetic, but the diabetics family, friends, and trainers.  NO ONE does this alone and when they try to do it alone they often end up just that alone.  There are a million ways to train a dog and if you ask any trainer THEIR WAY IS RIGHT.  We by nature want to control dogs...we want to control diabetes as well... with neither of them does that work real well.  We can teach, bend, mold, respond but both have MINDS OF THEIR OWN!

It takes everyone bringing SOMETHING to the table and US BEING OPEN to that to make the full picture come together. The thing is it isn't a still picture it is more like an ongoing movie or video.  People, places, and ideas come and go all the time.  We interact, we laugh, we love, we share, and we go on living our "picture".   My "picture" is not your "picture".....it is sometimes a shared screen but we are each separate.

In my dog "life" I have had the PRIVILEGE and HONOR to be around some pretty amazing trainers in their own right.  John M., Amy G., Robert R., Edie S., Evelyn S., Mary Ann N., Anne I., Gosia S., Tom and Katie Q. and I am sure I missing A LOT.  As much as I admire them and like how they train I am not them.  I can only borrow ideas and methods and mold them into methods that are useful for me.

In my diabetes "life" I have Kim M., Amy G., and a WHOLE SLEW of wonderful diabetics who are from all around the world and online.  I can admire each of them.  I think they do amazing jobs of dealing with the diabetes....but I am not them.  I have to take bits and pieces and borrow them to manage my own diabetes.

In my DAD "life" there are the breeders of my wonderful dogs, but there is also all of the wonderful teams that challenge me each and every day to think outside of the box.  To find solutions to problems to help others.  Shana E., Trista H. Charity R. Craig F., and Theresa F. are but just a few who have pushed and molded me and my ideas around DAD's.  They all live with diabetes in some way.  They all get the diabetes....but even more than that they are MY FRIENDS!  They are the get down and dirty..thick and thin..no matter what happens I love em kind of friends.  There are so many DAD teams that I work with and know of that I cant even begin to list them all but all of them come to mean something very special to me and each one of them has brought my a gift of learning something new about our 4 legged friends!

Now having said all of that......IT HAS TAKEN EVERY ONE OF THE ABOVE PEOPLE AND ALL OF THE ONES THAT I FORGOT TO MENTION for me to be who and what I am.  For my dogs to be who and what they are.  Our dogs and ourselves are at this moment the sum of all of our previous experiences and every one of those experiences.

So for those of you who are just starting this journey never ever discount and information that you may hear, see, or experience!  It may not apply to this dog but somewhere down the line it will apply to another dog.  See each interaction as an opportunity to learn more and don't forget to thank your friends and family!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

This Just Came out in the American Cheapeake Bulletin!

Bravo was born in McCammom, ID on December 2, 2005; I received him as a gift from Steve and Sharon Parker of Sunshine Kennels early in 2006. I didn't plan for him to remain with me, I had another home already lined up for him when he turned two. I had trained and competed with Labs and simply wanted to see if my training practices had advanced enough to train a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. I had no clue that when this brown bundle of fur came into my home that my life was about to be forever changed.

As a pup Bravo was a funny little joker, full of joy and happily bringing laughter to whatever situation we were in. Before he was a year old I exposed him to as many new experiences as I could.

Bravo had *heart* and he always tried. He occasionally made wrong choices, but as long as he put forth effort and tried I was happy. Working with him, I realized that Chessies are not for everyone and they are definately not for a novice trainer!

At 12 months of age Bravo passed the tests and became a registered Delta Therapy Dog. We volunteered at Aspen Ridge Rehabilitation Hospital working with a therapist and patient. Bravo took people for walks, pulled wheelchairs and played all sorts of retriever games. We would help stroke victims practice speech by having them give him commands, other times he would lay quietly as patients re-learned to move their limbs to pet or brush him. People will often do things with and for therapy animals that they won't do for their Doctors or nurses.

His registered name is Fetch Express Bravo Zula SH, CDX, RN, NAJ. He also jammed a Qualifying stake at the only AKC Field Trial I entered him in. He is an accomplished dock jumper with a personal best of 23' 7" in Big Air (broad jump) and 6' 10” in super vertical (high jump). Bravo has twice been nominated for the AKC ACE award (Award for Canine Excellence) in 2010 and 2011.

In 2011 Bravo won the K9 Hero of the Year Award at the Soldier Hollow Sheepdog Classic in Utah. He was also in a Cabela’s commercial and he is the Cover Dog of the 2012 Cabela’s Lab calendar. (Yes, a Chessie is the
cover dog - I am not sure if Cabela’s knows that or not, LOL!)

Bravo is also my hunting partner, he is an incredible waterfowl and upland hunting dog. He has more ribbons, medals and plaques than I have wall space for. While all of this is amazing and shows what an incredible dog he is, there is one more skill that I would gladly trade every ribbon, medal, and plaque that we have received for. You see, Bravo is also my Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD).

I am a Type 1 Diabetic with hypoglycemic unawareness. My pancreas does not produce enough insulin and I do not realize it when my blood glucose drops too low. Bravo alerts me to my low levels as well as my highs. He first alerts me that there is a change happening; I then I ask “What is it?” and he either waves a paw at me for high blood glucose or he bows for low blood glucose. Bravo has allowed me to remain active doing the things that I love.

While Bravo has brought hope and comfort to me, he has also brought hope to others with diabetes. People see him in action and become driven to improve their own lives with a trained DAD dog. He helps teach both the diabetic and their family how to properly handle dogs. He also alerts the family if *their* blood glucose is too high or too low. Bravo has alerted countless people with diabetes in elevators, in airplanes, at sporting venues and in Doctors offices. Basically anywhere there are people, Bravos' nose is at work.

At a recent Diabetic Alert Dog Conference, Bravo was working with a teenage diabetic while I was instructing a class. This young man is anxiously awaiting his own Diabetic Alert Dog but is currently on a waiting list. Suddenly, Bravo began alerting him that his blood glucose was getting low. He quickly got his meter and checked his blood, it confirmed the beginning stages of a low blood sugar. A dangerous low was avoided for this young man.

This is HUGE in the life of a diabetic! With tears in their eyes his parents came up and said "That is the most incredible thing we have ever seen! We know that when we get our own dog that will be common, but this moment with Bravo will always be special for our son and for us - he gave us our first real time alert to a low blood sugar."

Bravo helps me train other dogs to perform this much needed service through playful competition and the goal of being first to inform the diabetic of a low sugar. He misses very few low or high blood sugars on me and he is a perfect example for other dogs to learn from.

Bravo’s alerting has caused us to be disqualified in a few competitions, but I truely don’t care. He has proven that his number one job is to tell me when my blood sugars are off no matter what he is doing or where he is. The "nose" knows, and he tends to be about 15 to 30 minutes ahead of the blood glucose meter, 30 to 45 minutes ahead of a continuous blood glucose monitor.

Here are just a few of his more memorable alerts from the last year - I was judging an AKC test in OR. and Bravo alerted to me from over 400 yards away. While out hunting, he refused to retrieve downed birds until I fixed my blood glucose. Bravo alerted while we were receiving an award at the Soldier Hollow Sheep Dog Classic. While running an agility course, he suddenly stopped, came across in front of me, and would not let me move because my blood glucose had dropped dangerously low. Another time Bravo was inside the house while I was out doing yard work when my blood glucose dropped rapidly. He could not get to me, so using his nose he raised the window a bit farther and pushed out the screen. He then ran to me and alerted. There has not been a day in the last few years that he has not had to alert, and he averages five alerts a day.

His story is a testament to what an amazing breed the Chesapeake Bay Retriever truly is. Bravo is a very talented dog, my own personal guardian angel and my hero! This dogs' dedication and service to me is above and beyond anything that I have ever experienced in my life. I am so humbled, honored and truely blessed to have him in my life. My heartfelt thanks to Steve and Sharon Parker for the wonderful gift that has literally saved my life!

Here a few of the local news links about Bravo…




And Bravo has his own facebook page!


I also try to keep up with a blog about Bravo, DAD’s and diabetes!