Daisy the dog who helps a boy with diabetes – she can tell when his blood sugar levels fluctuate
Guide dogs are very helpful to those who are visually impaired. However, a five-year-old boy who has Type 1 diabetes not only found a companion, but also help for his condition, from a Labrador. The dog is trained to notice when the boy’s blood sugar levels fluctuate and it indicates this immediately to the child’s parents or whoever is with the boy at the time.
Jack is five years old. A year and a half ago he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. His mother, Christabel Calleja, explained that like other diabetes sufferers he need to control his blood sugar levels, and needs to take insulin several times a day.
As Christabel explained, over time, technology has made great strides, and today there are many ways to indicate whether one’s sugar levels have gone up or down. Jack now has Daisy in his life, a two-year-old Labrador which has been living with them for a year. Daisy was trained by the Service Dogs Malta Foundation to be a companion for someone who has diabetes.
“The fact that the child feels that he has something special and that he has a special friend in Daisy helps him immensely because when his blood sugar level goes down, she can smell it and she alerts us. This means that if he is playing outside, or watching TV, wherever he is, she follows him. She is always by his side, ready to alert us. When the blood sugar of a person with diabetes fluctuates, there is a change in the smell of their saliva. These dogs have such an acute sense of smell and are so well-trained, that when they sniff this particular smell, and in this case it is mostly when his blood sugar goes down, that Daisy knows that when she smells it, she has found something, and that she will get a treat. We usually give her something to eat as a well done and thank you.”
During the time we spent with Christabel, Jack and Daisy it was clear that the boy and the dog have a special relationship. Daisy takes great care of Jack and as soon as he wanders away from her, she even starts crying and wants to be near him and to stay by his side.
Jack Calleja says “I think she likes me to carry because she’s always coming above me. She loves me. She climbs on me and does like this, but hugs me here.”
The Service Dogs Malta Foundation are given puppies but then require volunteers who keep them while they are still young. During this period, these volunteers provide basic training to the dogs and when they grow up they will see which type of service they are most suited for. These services including helping children with autism and to be used as seeing eye dogs for the blind, while other dogs are used to assist people with diabetes, such as Jack.