Update: Herbert was my soul-dog. He was with me constantly, kept me healthy and kept me focused on making my health a priority. He began getting ill in November, 2015 and having a hard time eating without vomiting. We went to a few veterinarians, but despite exploratory surgery and endoscopic procedures – no cause was found for his ongoing decline. Knowing he was uncomfortable and deserving of freedom from pain, my vet and I made the decision to let him go in February, 2016. The vet performed an immediate necropsy and found the issue – a grass barb had become embedded into his esophagus and when his immune system tried to fight the barb it ended up destroying his esophagus. The immunosuppressive therapy he was on also eventually led to an acute fungal infection in his respiratory system. It was such a small and stupid thing that killed an amazing dog and at the moment of his death I felt my soul break and my world was forever broken into three parts: life before Herbert; life with Herbert; and life without Herbert. Unfortunately, my life with him was too short.
Run free my sweet boy, you deserve it. All my love, FoodLady.
Okie dokie, I know stuff, some may even say that I know quite a bit of stuff. That said, I don’t know everything and every day I learn more about how much I still don’t know. Please do not take anything you read here (or anywhere else for that matter) as the final knowledge in dogs, dog training, health, or any other topic. Learning is an ongoing process for everyone, please use anything explained here at your own risk, etc. etc. etc.
Herbert is my service dog and he is trained to detect changes in my blood glucose levels and to perform a specific alert if my blood glucose goes above 200 mg/dL or below 70mg/dL. No, it isn’t magic and it isn’t just him being intuitive – it is training.
Specifically, it is training using my spit. Yep, my spit. But before I get into specifics let me expand a little about a dog’s nose. Dogs noses are amazing. They can smell things that aren’t even close to registering on our pathetic-by-comparison noses. I usually explain it to people by having them look at what is in front of them – right now on my desk there is a diet coke can which is metal and has red, black, and silver parts as well as a tab that opens the can…..etc. etc. etc. All of those details you can see including color, size, texture, depth? That is how a dog’s nose works but with smells. So by training a dog with human saliva samples taken at differing blood glucose levels and working with them to perform an alert at certain set points, I now work with a dog that alerts me when my blood glucose levels begin to drift. Now, there is a lot more to it such as incorporating “blank” samples (using distilled water) and ensuring that there are samples taken at “normal” blood sugar levels to teach them what not to alert to. This part of the training is very much a fun game to dogs and I highly recommend doing this to any diabetic dog lover out there. But (and this is a BIG but) that skill alone does not a public access service dog make. I have learned that with a service dog – public access training never stops. Also, public access training shouldn’t start until about age 6 months and no, that doesn’t include socializing which should be ongoing once you have the puppy. See, it’s all rather complicated; but to me – it was fascinating, hard work, long hours, expensive and completely worth it.
A quick note to dog-loving fee avoiders or people who just wanna take their dog with them sometimes: please take a moment and imagine you worked your butt off for 2-3 years of your life to learn something, spent thousands of dollars on things needed to do something and you continue to practice that something every. single. day. You have sacrificed a lot of yourself to learn that something and are a little bit proud of how good you are at the something. Now imagine someone comes up to you and says, “I see you are doing something! yeah, I faked being able to do something to save a little money – yeah, it’s SUPER easy!” Or “yeah, where can I buy a uniform like that so I can look like I do something too! It must be super fun!” Please know that every time someone says that to me I am incredibly offended. I understand what it is like to be a dog loving human; dogs are freaking awesome. But every time someone ‘fakes’ their pet as a service dog it makes my life just a little bit harder when I need to travel or enter a business. You are also putting a lot of stress on your loved puppy – it takes a lot of training and ongoing experience for a dog to be comfortable in rapidly changing environments. Please remember these things before attempting to ‘fake’ anything – there is usually a better option.