Makenna & Dozer, the Diabetes Alert Dog – Makenna Barker
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in April of 1999, I was 3 years old. When I got into school and was old enough to care for my own diabetes, I was overwhelmed. I knew that I had to pay close attention to my blood sugars and if I didn’t I would have to leave my classroom and go to the office. I always had to double and triple check my blood sugar during tests to ensure that my blood sugar wasn’t going to drop or raise, causing me to be unfocused during the test. There were countless times throughout my school career that I had to leave PE or recess because of low blood sugar. I have always been fortunate enough to feel when my blood sugar starts to drop, but I was quickly becoming desensitized to that feeling.
I had always heard about Diabetic Alert Dogs and I had always thought that the work they did was fascinating. It amazed me that a dog could essentially provide so much relief to me and the millions of other Type 1 Diabetics throughout the world. My mom and I did a lot of research on many different companies and trainers. It was through a mutual friend of mine that I learned about another client from Medical Mutts. I met with Amy, her mom, and Juniper at a local restaurant to talk about the kind of company that Medical Mutts was. They had nothing but good to say, and it felt like it was meant to be. It was that next day that I contacted Medical Mutts to begin the application process for a service dog.
Dozer came to me with a wagging tail, a gentle heart, and a drive to work. Dozer came from a shelter and had a hard life before landing at Medical Mutts. I have never met a dog that has the ability to make you smile just by walking in the room. I have always been very active in playing sports and coaching them as well and Dozer just goes right along with me. Having Dozer and his watchful “nose” on me, allows me to continue to do what I love and not worry about my blood sugars as much.
Dozer goes everywhere with me, restaurants, stores, doctor’s appointments, sporting events, etc. Before getting Dozer I would have to stop what I was doing and check my blood sugar to make sure that I wasn’t dropping or rising. It was a constant struggle to try and live a normal life when I always had to interrupt my daily activities because of the fear that my blood sugars would plummet.
Before getting Dozer, my A1C was hovering around 8.0. After getting Dozer my A1C is now a fairly constant 6.3. But, beyond the obvious help that he provides towards my health, he is also a very good animal for emotional support. He was originally trained for PTSD and a lot of his training has stuck with him. It’s nearly impossible to be sad when his giant brown eyes are looking up at you. Dozer is a big yellow lab so being wiggly and happy comes very natural to him. I would definitely recommend getting a service dog to others that were completely prepared for it. I would make sure that someone knew how much work they are and that service dogs are not for everyone. Not everyone has the time or energy it takes to devote to a service animal. The analogy that my mom used before I got Dozer was that it was like having a child, except you can’t drop the dog off at your parent’s house when you need a break. They are excellent companions and provide an incomprehensible amount of relief knowing that they are on the job, but it isn’t for everyone and that’s okay. I don’t know what I would do without Dozer, so to me it’s second nature but I know that he is a living breathing thing and I have to account for him just like I would another human.
Dozer has provided my family and I with so much relief and happiness. Dozer has allowed me to continue my life and not have my blood sugars in the back of my mind. Now, I can take my college tests and exams without having to worry about dipping to low, because I know Dozer is on duty. Thank you Medical Mutts for introducing me to my best friend and life saver.
Jennifer Cattet Ph.D. is an author, researcher, dog trainer, consultant, and Executive Director of Medical Mutts, a non-profit organization specialized in the training of medical alert dogs for conditions such as seizures, diabetes, psychiatric disorders, etc.