Sunday, 29 July 2007

Sally the fabulous hypo-detecting dog

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On the 18th of July I blogged about a study that aims to explain how dogs are able to detect approaching hypoglycemic episodes in diabetic humans. Well, reader Margaret from Cumbria, in the UK, posted a comment about her dog, Sally, who is one of these amazing hypo-detecting dogs. I asked Margaret to tell us more and she obliged. Here is Sally's story:

Sally is a thirteen and a half-year-old Border Collie mix who lives with human "parents" Margaret and Alan, and canine buddy Poppy, who is a Cocker Spaniel. That's Sally (right) and Poppy (left) in the picture. Margaret and Alan adopted Sally from an animal shelter when she was just a tiny pup. Little did they know that Sally came complete with a special gift: she knows when Margaret, who has type 1 diabetes, is heading dangerously low.

"She has always been a sensitive dog," writes Margaret. "She gets very upset when there is thunder in the air. She shakes uncontrollably - even if we never even hear the thunder, but she knows it is about somewhere." As for detecting oncoming hypos, Margaret says: "my husband, perhaps more than me, notices her reaction. I can be just sitting staring into space, not doing anything, and Alan comes in, sees me and sees Sally acting strangely, by which I mean slinking around, really unhappy and just looking so miserable, trying to hide in a corner and she doesn't do that for any other reason, not even for the thunder."

I asked Margaret if Sally had received any training or if they rewarded or encouraged her reaction in any way. No, replied Margaret. "We certainly don't reward her for this. I really don't want her to be so unhappy about me! But, according to my husband, it is pretty obvious when he sees Sally behaving in this way - even though it is not obvious by my actions - that I am hypo, and this has been proved to be so." She adds, "Sally is very close to me. She is with me all the time and she has done this for as long as we can remember."

Margaret has had type 1 for thirty-five years. She was nearly twenty years-old when diagnosed. She also writes that one of her three sisters was diagnosed with type 1 at age seven, but is still going strong - fifty-seven years later.

Thanks, guys, for sharing your story!

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