Dogs4Diabetics assistance dog Armstrong.

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Dogs4Diabetics, also known as the Armstrong Project, named after the dog who inspired our program, is a non-profit charitable organization of dedicated volunteers who are training quality medical alert dogs for diabetic youth and adults. The organization was established in 2004 and serves type 1 diabetics in the western United States. OUR DOGS SAVE LIVES!


Ask Armstrong

This issue's topic: DIABETES


Dear Armstrong: What exactly is diabetes, and why would a diabetic need a service dog? Do you have diabetes?

Dear Human,

Though dogs can get diabetes, the dogs at Dogs4Diabetics are not diabetic dogs. We are all perfectly healthy! Our job is to help people with type 1 diabetes, and that's what we train to do at the D4D training facility in Concord.

There are two kinds of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Having diabetes means you have high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) because your pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin to convert the sugar in your blood to energy for the body to use, or your body doesn't respond the way it should to the insulin you do make. If your blood sugar levels are above normal levels for a long time, it damages your body. So, doctors want people with diabetes to have close to normal as possible blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is the kind most people have, and while their body usually makes enough insulin, their body doesn't respond the right way to it. Type 2s can usually be treated with lifestyle changes and pills, although sometimes they need to take insulin injections. Someone who has type 1 diabetes doesn't usually produce any insulin, and without it, they become very sick within a couple of hours, so they have to make sure they are taking insulin throughout the day and night.

When the body is producing and regulating its own insulin, it automatically produces just the right amount. But someone with type 1 diabetes has to think about how much insulin they need all the time, since the amount of insulin you need is not only based on what you eat, but is also influenced by exercise, sleep quantity and quality, stress levels, illness, and other factors. Whew! It sounds like a lot of work! Diabetics get very good at determining how much insulin they need to take, but as you can probably imagine, it's hard to get it exactly right, every single time!

If the diabetic takes too much insulin, their blood sugar levels drop below normal (hypoglycemia). Your body needs a certain amount of blood sugar to work right, and when levels drop too low, it can quickly result in disorientation, unconsciousness or even death. It's a real emergency! It requires early detection and treatment, and diabetics regularly test their blood sugar levels. This usually works quite well if the diabetic is aware that he or she is going low, but many type 1 diabetics develop decreased sensitivity to the symptoms associated with hypoglycemia and are not aware that their blood sugar levels are dangerously low. Children, too, often have a hard time identifying and communicating dropping blood sugar levels. This is especially dangerous at night, when a diabetic may fail to wake up in time to treat a severe hypoglycemic reaction. Parents of diabetic children have to get up several times a night to check the blood sugar levels of their sleeping children, and they also have to make sure that anyone supervising their kids understands diabetes and how important it is to encourage the kids to check their levels all day long and treat hypoglycemia the moment it's detected.

And that's where we come in!!!

Though larger than the standard diabetic equipment, a D4D dog can be with their diabetic partner at all times. We don't run on electricity or batteries, but rather on love and a little bit of kibble! We'll wake up in the middle of the night to wake up our diabetic partner if they're low (the second we smell the scent of hypoglycemia we know we're going to get a treat, so it's really exciting to us!), and we'll keep licking or jumping on them until they pay attention to us and check their blood sugar levels! We also know how to get help when necessary--we'll find another person nearby, nudge them and lead them back to the diabetic in trouble.

At present, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes. Though diabetics all over the world work hard on managing their diabetes and enjoy healthy, active, long and fulfilling lives, the other dogs at D4D and I feel like they deserve all the help they can get! We're proud of the work we do, and we love our diabetic partners--even more than we love bones, treats, and tennis balls.

~ Armstrong

 For more information regarding Dogs4Diabetics and The Armstrong Project, please contact us at:
  Dogs4Diabetics, Inc.
  1647 Willow Pass Road, #157 Concord, California 94520-2611
  (925) 246-5785 |