Beth and Diabetes Assist Dog Fiona
By Bobb Elsenpeter
For Beth, a Diabetes Assist Dog is essential. With the dangers posed by rapidly falling blood sugar, the more advanced notice she has, the better.
Fiona was teamed with Beth after her first Diabetes Assist Dog, Faith, a 7-year-old Black Labrador Retriever suddenly passed away. And although the loss of one’s assistance dog is naturally difficult, Beth says that she went into the new partnership with the wisdom of important lessons under her belt.
“I knew so much more so I could be a better leader for [Fiona] and not make some of the same mistakes that I made the first time around,” she says.
Their bond formed right away. Beth says, “She fit in almost immediately. She was part of the family.”
But Fiona also has work to do, and she’s determined. “The day she came home she alerted almost immediately,” Beth explains. “She has even since figured out that it comes from my breath. Every once in a while she’ll come by and take a sniff just to make sure that I’m doing okay.”
Fiona’s presence has also taken a burden off of Beth’s family. “After Faith passed, they [asked] ‘How are you doing? How’s your blood sugar?’” Beth says. “They were checking on me when they hadn’t in the past. I didn’t realize how much of a feeling of security that [Faith] had provided to them as well. Now they’re absolutely comfortable again … As long as Fiona is with me, they’re comfortable she’s going to catch [my falling blood sugar] and don’t have to worry about it.”
“I had a higher level of anxiety after Faith was gone, because I had the safety net before. She walked with me with the disease. It wasn’t only me. If I was up in the middle of the night and I couldn’t get my sugar up, she was up with me,” Beth explains. “So now I’ve got that safety net again. And it is such a safe, secure feeling knowing that somebody’s got your back and they’re going to be there no matter what.”
In addition to Fiona’s assistance, Beth also has an insulin pump and a Dexcom CGM, a continuous glucose monitoring device. And while it is somewhat unusual for someone to have both a Diabetes Assist Dog and a CGM, in a lot of ways, Beth says Fiona is more reliable and responsive than the man-made medical device.
“[Fiona] alerts me, sometimes, when [my blood sugar is] in the 90s and it is falling,” Beth says. “She can tell when it is falling fast and she can tell when it’s heading that way … The difference between relying on the CGM and [Fiona] is that the CGM is about 20 minutes behind your actual blood sugar, because the CGM tests your blood sugar in the subcutaneous tissue. It doesn’t test it in your actual bloodstream, and [Fiona’s] giving it in real-time. It gives you about a 20-minute head start, and in some situations, 20 minutes can be all the difference.”
Beth has nothing but gratitude for everyone who donated their time and money to bring Fiona into her life. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you,” she gushes. “You have changed my life … She allows me to give back, versus having to spend all my time in a bubble, worrying that I am going to drop. There are no words to thank you for all you’ve done, and I think you need to know that she will carry all the love you gave her … She’s doing a fabulous job and I thank you for all the time and love that you spent with her.”
Thank you for making this partnership possible:
Great Start Home: Dennis and Joyce Carlson-Rioux
Puppy Raiser: The inmate handlers at FCI Waseca
Special Thanks: Sue O’Connell
Name-A-Puppy Donor: Alyssa Akerman
Whelping Home: Mitch and Wendy Peterson
Breeder Host: The Sears family and The Duncan family
You: Thank you for your donations!