The endless miracles of having dogs in our lives.
I have two sisters: Elizabeth and Eleanor. Elizabeth lives in Tokyo, Japan and Eleanor lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. They are both dear sisters and we all love each other as brothers and sisters should!
Anyway, Eleanor’s husband, Warwick, has a brother and this story is about Warwick’s brother’s step-daughter, Stacey Maguire.
It was Eleanor who sent this story to me to be published in this place.
My dog saves my life every day
Stacey Maguire’s life is always in danger.
A severe Type 1 Diabetic, her body doesn’t produce the insulin it needs to control her blood sugar, leaving her vulnerable to catastrophic changes in sugar levels. But as long as her dog, Gretchen, is around she has nothing to fear. For Gretchen is a trained Diabetic Assist Dog (DAD).
Gretchen is a Swiss Shepherd who saves her owner’s life on a daily basis by warning her whenever her blood sugar is at a dangerous level. Incredibly, Gretchen does this by smell.
Stacey’s chronic condition is so severe that she’s on the best monitoring technology in South Africa. But before Gretchen came into her life, and even with that monitoring technology, Stacey still experienced hypoglycemic episodes and seizures at least once a week when changes in her blood sugar levels weren’t detected in time.
Thus when Gretchen arrived from America her sole objective was sniffing out the problem as fast as possible. And Gretchen does that – a full hour ahead of that best available technology!
Her method? An urgent paw to the knee, followed by a bark. Gretchen takes no nonsense, delivering the testing kit to Stacey’s hand if her response is sluggish. If anything goes wrong Gretchen, as a trained service animal is taught to so do, sounds an alarm or alerts the nearest person to the danger. Stacey couldn’t ask for better care.
Stacey is the first South African to benefit from a Diabetic Assist Dog. Stacey Maguire’s dream is to start a facility to train more dogs to help diabetics like her. That’s something South Africa can get behind.
Eleanor also added the following by way of background:
We found a phenomenal lady called Diane Marquette in Minnesota who agreed to train a dog for export – her first time for such an undertaking.
A three-year-old white Swiss Alsatian called Gretchen made the grade for the initial training after which Di started the diabetic training. In preparation, whenever Stacey felt unwell she spat into cotton-wool and put these samples into the freezer. When Stacey had collected a bundle she sent them via courier to Di who then trained Gretchen on Stacey’s scent.
This process took ten months. Then Stacey flew to Minnesota to meet Gretchen, to be bonded with Gretchen, to be trained and, finally, to sit and pass a very stringent exam before being allowed to bring Gretchen back home. Ten days later we met them at Cape Town International, after twenty-one hours of flying for Stacey with Gretchen at her feet in the aeroplane. SA’s first DAD had landed!
In an email to me, Eleanor included:
Stacey and Gretchen have now been together for several years with their bond just strengthening and strengthening! Gretchen alerts Stacey continuously and in recent times has started alerting at night too. Thus even accounting for the fact that, as with all dogs, Gretchen sleeps at night coinciding, unfortunately, with when Stacey is most vulnerable to shocking lows, this fabulous dog maintains awareness of Stacey’s body scents during the night hours.
Stacey’s wish is to bring trainer Di of Scent Angels to Cape Town to train trainers, and then to roll this life-saving program out to fellow diabetics.
Eleanor also included the link to the website for Scent Angels. I shall pass on the link to this post to Diane Marquette with the request that she might allow me to share some more stories of these incredible dogs with you all.