Imagine not being able to identify when you need medication to keep you from getting sick. How would you cope? Would your family worry about your welfare if they couldn’t be close? Likely you would struggle to maintain your independence and your family would be continually concerned about your wellbeing. This was the situation facing Sarah Lawrence of Viroqua, Wis.
Sarah works at a local nursing home as a Certified Nursing Assistant. A vibrant young woman, she has type 1 diabetes and hypoglycemic unawareness. People like Sarah oftentimes no longer experience the warning signs of low blood sugar that their bodies give them. When she was struggling to maintain her blood sugar levels it was common for her parents to contact her by phone several times a day to be sure she was not in imminent danger or in need of medical care.
Finally, Sarah and her parents began to research how an assistance dog might help someone with her medical needs. Their first attempt led to a dead end when they realized the cost was too prohibitive. However, that organization put them in touch with Can Do Canines who provides their dogs free of charge!
Enter Lucy, a three-year-old, black Labrador retriever. Sarah met Lucy, her Diabetes Assist Dog, at the Can Do Canines facility. She stayed on-site at the facility in a furnished apartment during her four-day on-site training. Sarah says this greatly reduced the amount of travel time and expenses she and her family had to incur. After her on-site training was complete, a field trainer from Can Do Canines came to her apartment and helped her and Lucy get acclimated. Sarah admits, “It was a little stressful at first. Getting used to having a dog was different.”
Lucy is with Sarah all day, every day. She accompanies Sarah to work and brings smiles to the faces of the nursing home residents. It’s not uncommon for Lucy to assist Sarah once or twice each day when her blood sugar is low. When they are at home, Lucy alerts Sarah by, “being persistent, nudging her, and climbing in her lap.” Lucy is trained to open the door of the refrigerator, take out the juice and bring it to Sarah if necessary.
When asked about Lucy’s personality Sarah says, “She has a happy-go-lucky puppy personality. But when she’s working—she’s very serious.”
Lucy makes Sarah laugh, smile and the best part Sarah admits is, “I have confidence that I can live by myself and be better off.” Lucy not only keeps Sarah safe by helping monitor her blood sugar, but she is also a motivation for Sarah. Her future plans include participating in a 5k walk-run with Lucy in alongside.
Sarah has nothing but praise for all the people who helped bring Lucy into her life. With a smile, Sarah says, “The entire experience has been very rewarding. You have changed my life.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser—The Schleif Family
Long-term Foster Homes—The Inmate Handlers at the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Faribault