Suzanne learns Koda's signals (Karoline Wightman)
Learning the signals from a Diabetic Alert Dog (Karoline Wightman)
Koda is not your typical house pet. He's a diabetic alert dog, specially trained to detect when a person's blood sugar is too high or too low. Suzanne Crowley is now Koda's proud new master.
Their bond goes beyond the usual dog and owner relationship, because Koda is trained to save Suzanne's life.
Koda is now Suzanne's constant companion. Koda's trainer, Kristin Minnie, from an organization in California called The Local Bark, says Koda needs to be by Suzanne's side at all times. "He's her new life partner."
Minnie spent 6 months training Koda at The Local Bark facility with Suzanne's scent, frozen on cotton balls. Koda knows to alert Suzanne when something is wrong. Suzanne says one of the scariest things about being a diabetic for a long period of time is she doesn't notice her blood sugar changing anymore. "There have been times when my blood sugar has dropped below what a meter would read which is very dangerous. You can slip into a coma and die."
Koda and Suzanne are now learning to adjust to each other and understand each other's signals. Minnie says what Koda is trained to do is take his big paw and signal her by hitting Suzanne's leg. "She can't miss it."
The goal is to improve Suzanne's quality of life and provide relief for her and her whole family. But Minnie says Koda is not a cure for the disease. "We don't want Suzanne to slow down what she already has going on. Glucose monitors are still important, but this dog will help her keep on top of checking her blood sugar."
Koda is a professional, but the new relationship is just as fulfilling for Koda as it is for Suzanne. Minnie says Koda loves his job. "He doesn't mind doing it 24/7."
A shelter dog rescued by The Local Bark, Suzanne saved Koda's life too.
Being a relatively new addition to the service dog industry, training techniques for diabetic alert dogs are constantly evolving. Trainers ask if you see any service dog out in public to not pet it. The dog is working and you shouldn't interfere.
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