Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What is a DAD smelling?

As trainers and families of DADs, I encourage you to chime in... (comment below!) Or hop on over to--> DIABETIC ALERT DOG ADVICE  on Facebook where the convo is already up and running!

It's out: Our dogs are not smelling "the lows and highs" of our Type Ones.

When I first stumbled across this information, I didn't believe it! I thought out loud, "These dogs WORK, they are RELIABLE!" So how do we combat this research and these findings?...
"Dr. Bill Quick (who recently debunked the DAD/hypoglycemic scent connection) through a research project reports:
The closest is a survey by researchers at Queen's University Belfast, which found that 65 percent of 212 people with insulin-dependent diabetes reported that when they had a hypoglycemic episode their pets had reacted by whining, barking, licking or some other display.
No one seems to agree on what these dogs are sensing; options that have been discussed by pediatric endocrinologists include:
1)       Behavior changes
2)       Low blood sugar
3)       Changing blood sugar
4)       High blood sugar
5)       Ketones
6)       Some other esoteric chemical or chemicals that are unique to hypoglycemia.

What do we know for sure that dogs can do?
1)       They can occasionally react in various ways when owners with diabetes have abnormally low blood sugar levels -- but that doesn’t mean they react predictably to lows, nor does it mean that expensive training programs can teach dogs to react reliably to lows.

2)       They have reduced parental anxiety about hypoglycemia.

3)       They (or more correctly, the trainers) have persuaded parents (and occasionally, insurance companies) to part with many thousands of dollars."
* links to info above found at end of article

Kristin Tarnowski**, founder of Dogs Assisting Diabetes in Forest Grove, OR, is the trainer and provided the dogs from Dr. Quick's research that "de-bunked" the DAD/hypoglycemic smell connection. She is a certified professional dog trainer, has an undergraduate degree in animal sciences and a masters in education. All of her training is (as she claims) "science based and constantly evolving." Tarnowski also spent 12 year with Guide Dogs for the Blind. She has given permission to share her perspective on why she believes this was such a bust for her dogs:

"I was involved in this research and was devastated by the results. There are plans to conduct future studies, but funding is required to make such a research happen. The dogs used in the study were all trained by me and lived in the home of a diabetic adult or child. The dogs had been working as service dogs anywhere from one year to three years. The problem with the results was not the dogs, but the methods. They collected scent samples and ran the dogs thru by having them walk into an empty surgical suite at the hospital. On the floor was a scent, either actual or placebo and a doorbell that the dogs were trained to ring as alerts. The dogs were run thru time after time, exhausting sixty samples and the dogs. For those of you that have trained or worked with scent dogs, this is exhausting. The other problem was the study removed the human component of the dogs training, forcing him into an unnatural environment, without people. These dogs are all still living with their people and working very accurately with them as diabetic alert service dogs. I am hopeful that this study will be done in a way that is less science and takes into account the fact we are dealing with animals that live and breathe to be with humans. We cannot expect them to fully adapt at the flip of a switch to alerting on pieces of plastic in an empty surgical suite.... I am very sad these results are out because it gives the wrong portrayal of a DAD. If anyone would like to talk with me more about this study or if anyone has ideas on where to gain funding for future studies I would love to talk. I know the doctors at OHSU are eager to continue the study, they just need funding."

Tarnowski concludes with: "When I agreed to do this research study, my hope was that it would lead to more studies which would eventually validate the dogs scientifically so insurance companies would have to cover their cost. From that point, I want to see a training standard established and enforced somehow. I follow all training out lined by IAADP but few do and even those guidelines are so vague. I want to be part of that movement and if there are people out there with ideas, I would love to contribute wherever I can." (taken from FB group Stop the Scammers conversation on Dr. Bills' work )

Tarnowski was part of another research program from Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR. The results are noted in the pictures below and she believes, "The body goes thru a metabolic change. It makes sense in understanding physiology. When a person goes thru different experiences, different chemicals are always being produced or taken away."
She says, "I haven't seen research to prove this, but I have been told that dogs smell independent compounds. For example, when I smell a stew cooking, I smell stew and that is all my brain registers. With a dog, I have been told, they will smell barley, beef, pepper, etc. The dog doesn't just smell stew. That is my understanding of how these dad dogs work. They don't smell a human, they smell each chemical that makes a human. I am only teaching them to react to two chemical presences or absences... (She is teaching both "lows" and "highs") 
Kristen explains, "I teach the dogs to recognize both the low and high. I actually say they learn three because they need to know normal as well. When a dog is not actually alerting he is still communicating with you, telling you that there is normal scent present. So in reality, the absence of an alert behavior is an alert that there is normal blood glucose range. I use this concept in follow-up continued education on the dogs."
What do we say now?
"My child's blood sugar fluctuates and their sniffer dog will be able to alert him before it gets too dangerous."

Most times? Yes.
Every time? No.

Diabetic Alert Dogs are not 100%, they are not perfect, and most families are fortunate to get a dog that alerts over 85% of the time.

Could your DAD be a life-saving tool? Absolutely. Could your child be "dead in bed?" without their canine companion? Probably not.
Among the country's best and brightest Endo's and pediatric teams out of Boston, the "dead in bed" theory has also been debunked. Most children who died were also suffering some other unknown (at the time) condition.

What happens when "smelling the blood sugar" and "dead in bed" are removed from our vocabulary?
  • my child has another tool among many to help manage their diabetes
  • this canine companion is going to be a "plus" for my child when they are sick or hurting emotionally
  • We want to utilize any and every resource for our diabetes management, and a dog makes sense for us
They should be realistic from the start, as is. Are you hoping for a "life-saving dog?" If that came in a written contract from any organization that these dogs are THAT reliable, you couldn't put a price or cap on my fundraising efforts. And no cost would be too outrageous.

editor's note: More DAD organizations are recognizing the importance of dog/handler bonding. DAD waiting lists taking 2-3 yrs by most organizations are not as common throughout the industry. 
SCENT IMPRINTED puppies are going out to their handler's as young as 10-12 weeks/months, and working for their handlers, (with local trainer follow up.) One year old pups have been known to begin "scent training" at 14-16 months with other well-known organizations.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Affordable Rescue Dogs for DADs...

...says new kid on the block, Jamie Cook of HEADS UP HOUNDS

What is the name of your DAD/organization? Heads Up Hounds

How long have you been involved with Diabetic Alert Dogs? 2013

When did you begin your journey? We began our journey when a close friend of our family needed a DAD for their son, but was struggling with the idea of paying $20,000 and waiting 1-2 years to get a dog for him.  His son was adamant that he would not allow his parents to shell out that kind of money and would manage somehow, although he was quietly struggling greatly being away at college with BG levels fluctuating all over the place.  Around this same time, we became connected with a trainer that was assisting us with one of our rescue dogs.  He began to tell us about his many years of experience training scent detection dogs for the military, secret service and police.  He had also worked training diabetic alert dogs for some families using the methods he had learned in the military and found that he could train alert dogs quite quickly in this manner.  My husband and I have many years of experience working with shelters and rescues in various capacities.  We started talking with the trainer (Russ) about using rescue dogs along with his methods to put together a program that would allow people like our friends to get DADs more quickly and for a much lower cost.  As a result, Heads Up Hounds was born.  We also are able to provide great fundraising assistance to those who still needed additional help to acquire these life-saving dogs.

What have been your greatest obstacles?  Interestingly, the biggest obstacles right now are just getting all of the administration set up.  Like many things in life it is the paperwork and red tape that cause the biggest hassles!

Why do you continue? We continue because we hear story after story after story of parents staying up all night, every night, checking on their T1 kid’s BG levels, stories of parents worried sick now that their kids are heading off to college with no safety net, of teenagers that “just want to be able to go to a sleepover like all my friends”.  There is a huge need for these dogs.  People feel that the cost puts them out of reach or that it is simply too long of a wait.  PLUS we get to save dogs that might otherwise be euthanized in a shelter or free up space in a rescue so that another life can be saved. 

How do you feel you are impacting the type 1 community? We are allowing a person to realize that they have options… that these dogs are in reach for anyone who needs them, when they need them.  It is also cool to be able to allow people to pick almost any type of dog for their DAD.  People with diabetes come in all shapes, sizes, ages and lifestyles…why shouldn’t their dogs be as unique as they are?

Do you feel there can be more done? If so, what would it look like?  I would love to see more trainers consider working with shelter and rescue dogs.  With so many dogs euthanized in shelters every day in our country, it just seems wrong to be breeding more and more dogs when there are dogs available that have the perfect temperament to do this important work in every community across the country.

What makes your process (or situation) unique/different? We utilize shelter/rescue dogs exclusively.  We have a unique training process that allows dogs to be trained more quickly than most traditional programs.  Our cost is significantly less than most other DAD training programs.

How are you involved with the families for the lifetime of their DAD? We work as team with our clients. Everyone sees our contract and signs it before we even go get their dog. A common misconception with trainers about us is that we have rescue dogs already that we are then "pawning off" on people; backwards. We get a recipient, learn their needs, THEN go search for their dog. Its very personal...they are involved every step. We hope to stay connected with these families for many years to come.  We provide access to our trainers for any troubleshooting that might be needed.  We are building a community of Heads Up Hound owners on Facebook.  People refer us to others in the diabetic community.  And, of course, we hope that when it is time for their dog to retire to the life of just a beloved pet, that they will give us the honor of training their next DAD.

Does every applicant that comes to you for a DAD “get in”? Why or why not?  Every applicant that understands their responsibility in caring for a dog, continuing the DADs training and is willing to work our program “gets in”.  We do require that the recipient and in many cases one member of their family be able to travel to the Omaha-area for a 3-day orientation, bonding time with their new DAD and training in handling, care and on-going maintenance of their DADs training when they return home.  If fundraising is required, we assist with ideas and support, but they must be willing to do most of the fundraising “legwork”. 

What do you look most for in a dog to do this job?   Physically, the dog simply needs to be of an appropriate size (compared to the recipient) and have a relatively long muzzle.  The temperament needs to be friendly, alert (but not anxious), basic trainability, and food-motivation.  One of the best things about our program is that we get to know the needs and wants of each particular recipient and can then go find a dog that suits them.  We are not a one-size fits all organization.

How long can one expect to wait from start to “finish” in being placed with one of your dogs… Does the wait time fluctuate? Why or why not?  Obviously, there is some fluctuation depending on how long our list of applicants is and how much capacity we have.  From the time we obtain a deposit, we can usually locate a DAD candidate dog in about 2-4 weeks.  From the time we take possession of the dog until its training is complete is typically 2-4 months.  So, a dog could be ready for delivery to a recipient in as little as 3-6 months total. The number of people waiting with deposits submitted and how quickly the dogs complete their training will determine how quickly we can acquire and begin training the next candidate’s DAD.  Because we are not waiting for the dogs grow up and because our overall process is very streamlined, our overall wait time is far less than organizations that breed and use a more traditional approach.   

Editor's note: While speaking with Jamie, I learned Heads Up Hounds not only trains these DADs for public access, but also trains each dog on night alerts. YES. YOU READ THAT PROPERLY. Jamie and the Heads up Hounds team is very passionate about what is important to the Type 1 community and I am happy to see and hear of all the strides Heads Up Hounds is making to stand tall in this industry.

Location:  just outside of Omaha, NE
Available to (locationwide): nationwide
Price Range: $6,500 (plus cost of travel and accomodations during 3-day pick-up)

Website or FB site:
http://www.headsuphounds.org FOLLOW THEIR AWESOME BLOG HERE
Click HERE to go to their Facebook page and HERE for their Director of Public Relations &  Fundraising assistance. Contact JAMIE HERE.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A (diabetic) man's best friend; SUGAR

Something I find significant to share in this industry is successful history. Considering how YOUNG DIABETIC ALERT DOG teams have been around, I am pleased to share this story with you.

"I had a low which I passed out and required an ambulance. This incident not only frightened me, but it really affected my wife. She was the one that witnessed the things that were happening while I was unconscious. I would wake at night to her asking me to check my sugar because I was breathing weird or making some strange noise. I was the diabetic, yet she was the one suffering most."
Around the time this happened, a friend of Jim's wife was in the process of getting a DAD and helped them get in touch with the "DAD world", which ultimately led them to Wildrose Kennels, located in Mississippi.
In Jan 2011, Jim had a 3-day visit with "Sugar." They trained together, and were taught many things that would help them become a successful team. Sugar was a 10 month old "started DAD", & Jim was given the option to take her home and continue training. His trainer, Rachel Thornton, would be a phone-call or email away at any time.  From this experience and observation over time, Jim says, 
"I think one of the most common mistakes (a person wanting a DAD could make) is thinking that the dog is finished with training. There is always something to work on. If you can realize this going into it, you have a much better chance of being successful."
Jim also notes (on training), "Obstacles change constantly. At first it was a proper heel. This takes much more time and effort than you would ever imagine. At one point I didn't think we would ever get it. I almost gave up, but was talked down by a great trainer, and at this point I am very happy with where we are with it."
Jim communicates his Diabetic Journey & (FB site) SUGAR through pictures and art scape in the streets of Philadelphia, and spends a lot of time learning and training. He is open and reveals, 
"Our current issue is with ignoring other dogs. we do well for a while and then someone allows their dog to jump on her and we start all over. It's hard for her to watch me while anticipating a dog jumping on her."

On the question of diabetes/DADs, and, "Why continue?" Jim answers, "The goal to live a long healthy life will never change, only the tools that are available will."
He includes, "Hopefully my positive outlook will change the feelings of someone that doesn't quite see the good in all of this. Wherever you are in this journey, I was once there too. Your hard work will pay off, and you will learn many things along the way."

Jim would like to see less drama in the DAD world and says, "We often forget the main goal of these DAD's is to save lives."

He is not visually impaired, and a healthy looking grown man with a service dog. Jim says, "This presents both problems and curiosity while in public."
If that's confusing in any way, please read--> "Is your DAD a seeing eye dog?"
And click Jim's common experience shared by friend/writer Meagan Esler on "DIABETES HEALTH"
editor's note: Jim and I got acquainted through a write up online about him and Sugar. As much as I'd like to finish this blog feature on him proud, he is one to do just fine on his own. (As you can see from the many quotes above!) So here is Jim's poem, read it slow- read it well, and don't hesitate to SHARE.

Struggle Stinks: by Jim Murray

This here is a rhyme, and at times a bit silly
about a child with diabetes, and a bully named Billy

Billy was big and smelled worse than a skunk
he was mean to everyone, the definition of a punk
He was mean to the girls and worse to the boys
you’d run when you saw him and hide all of your toys
Billy had a special hatred for me

He heard I was different, I had the big “D”
He came up and choked me I fell to my knees
told me he better not catch my diabetes
I said “you can’t catch it” as I gasped for a breath
He snarled “If I do I’ll beat you to death”
for years he abused me never easing a bit
pulling the chair out as I attempted to sit
A day without Billy was certainly rare
Twice I had my head shaved when he put gum in my hair

It was hard enough without Mr. Smelly
like counting my carbs and shots in my belly
The ups and the downs the highs and the lows
the unexplained numbers as my body grows
As I got older I decided to change
I’d workout and run to keep my sugars in range
I learned about foods and their affect on my body
I ran a 5k, and took some karate

Years had passed and my childhood faded
I almost forgot all of the pain he created
At the fair one summer while in line for a ride
I spotted old Billy with a boy by his side
He came over and said “remember me dude?”
I’m sorry I picked on you and acted so rude
He asked who my boy was I said “he’s my son”
He said “this is my boy, he’s also type 1″
We’re having some trouble controlling at night
by the looks of you you’re doing it right
Please tell me the secrets and share some advice
this month alone he’s been in the hospital twice
What is a carb? and how do I do it?
It’s a lot of work and I already blew it
I can’t work his pump, I’m really not sure
I just bought some cinnamon, I heard it’s a cure.

I pulled my sons hand,” MOVE” I mumbled
I bumped into Billy so hard he had stumbled
I walked away angry, bitter and rude
I’m proud of myself for not crushing that dude
The things he had done I’ll never forget
Not in front of the kids though, that I’d regret
I could beat up Billy, and I was beating the D
But if I walk away from that kid I’d be defeating me.

It’s not very often that I lose my cool
my son said, “I recognize that boy from school”
He said that he’s younger, he sees him outside
but there’s this bully that pushes him off of the slide
he always bugs that kid, he’s really relentless
he is so much bigger, that young kid is defenseless
He thought of a nice way to make sure he doesn’t
he lied to the bully, told him that boy is his cousin.
My boy knew that kid was type 1 like me
We headed back in to help out Billy

We hung out that night me, Billy, and boys
played lots of games and won tons of toys
Billy explained why he smelled like a skunk
He had no running water and his dad was a drunk
“But your house was so nice, it was big and red”
He said “my mom was the maid, we lived in the shed”
He told me he’s sorry for all the things that he did
Now I realize how lucky i was when I was a kid
Some important things I learned in this life of mine
Is to work very hard and always be kind
help those you can, forgive those you hate
the more heart you pour in the better your fate.
You’re rewarded for all of the good that you do
In one form or another it comes back to you