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!

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