Man’s best friend, with benefits, these are dogs for diabetics.They are trained to smell dangerous changes in blood sugar levels and alert their owners.It cost around 50000 dollars for the organization to train each dog, but for diabetics who qualify the dogs are free.“This is awesome. I can get a dog to help with my diabetes.”And help they do. This dog named Yancey saved his owner from low blood sugar that could have led to a diabetic coma.“They said to us, the doctor, if she didn’t wake you up, you would not have been made it.”
Mark Ruefenacht is the founder of Dogs4Diabetics. He is a diabetic who loves to gather data.“I’m wearing two continuous glucose monitors as I’m testing out. Two different brands right now.”One blood sugar monitor shows a reading of 122, the other shows 133, both readings are in the safe normal range.So Ruefenacht demonstrates how his diabetes dogs smell low blood sugar by using jars containing swabs of sweat from a diabetic who did had low blood sugar.
Ruefenacht’s sweat jar method for training his diabetes alert dogs has been validated scientifically.To train dogs to avoid distracting smells, he uses jars with other scents.“Such as peanut butter or dog food or eucalyputus.”But the dogs are not interested in the other smells.This is how they let him know that his blood sugar level is dropping,but because the monitor showed his blood sugar was normal just a few minutes earlier,Ruefenacht decides the dogs simply want to play.“So, now, we’re getting a little bit of attention wanting, because one dog is getting jealous of the other, okay, off, sit.”Ruefenacht continues to explain his training methods, then suddenly…
“What, what’s happening is（that） my blood sugar are dropping.Okay, and that’s maybe why they were both alerting at the intensity that they were.Now five, ten minutes later I’m getting the alert that the blood sugars are dropping rapidly."The same meter that had shown a safe blood sugar level of 133 ten minutes ago, when his dogs first alerted,now shows a blood sugar of 83, a 50 point drop.Ruefenacht says that the dogs often noticed dangerous blood sugars before his meters do.“This is persistence, okay? This is not just pressing a button on my phone and turning an alarm off. This is persistence. Good girl.”
Dogs4Diabetes has placed over 100 dogs with diabetics.They hope to expand the program training humanity’s most loyal companion to save lives and help diabetics around the world.
Shelley Schlender for VOA News Concord California.