Dogs sure do love to sniff stuff, don’t they? The sidewalk, trees, fire hydrants, bits of canine and human anatomy we probably shouldn’t mention here… dogs seem to poke their noses around with reckless abandon and an utter disregard for humility.
But what if dogs could use their impeccable sense of smell for something other than finding great spots for relieving themselves, or causing awkward moments when your friends stop by? What if service dogs could be trained to use their soggy nostrils for helping those living with disabilities?
That’s precisely what the folks at Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers in Madison, Virginia have been doing. SDWR has been training service dogs to detect symptoms of diabetes, autism, PTSD, seizure disorders, and more. And recently, they changed the life of one lucky girl whose invisible disability led her to make what will likely become a great new canine friend.
Meet Annaka and her Diabetic Alert Service Dog, Deacon
Annaka, a 12-year old girl in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, has been living with type 1 diabetes and hyperinsulinism since birth, and has struggled with seizures her whole life.
This week Annaka met Deacon, a labrador retriever who has amassed thousands of hours of training since his days as a young puppy. Through SDWR’s proprietary training methods, Deacon has fine-tuned his sniffing into an art form, and can help Annaka in ways other service dogs should frankly be envious of.
Deacon can detect when Annaka’s blood sugars are low and alert her or the family. He can find her a safe place to lie down when a seizure is approaching. And when Annaka is feeling stressed out, Deacon can comfort and relax her, too. All service dogs are lifesavers and lifechangers, but Deacon takes these concepts to a whole other level. Diabetes alert dogs smell blood sugar changes.
Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, Annaka will be free to take Deacon with her wherever she goes, albeit school, a restaurant, or on a family vacation. They’ll be together from sunrise to sunset, and all the hours in-between, for that matter.
“Annaka will finally be able to sleep in her own bedroom,” says Annaka’s Mom, Amy. “Her whole life up until current, she sleeps with parents. So when she receives her dog, she and her dog will sleep in her bedroom.”
Annaka and Deacon’s Journey is Only Just Beginning
Deacon isn’t a pet, but a partner. He and Annaka will need to learn how to work together as a team in order to maximize his effectiveness.
SDWR will drop by to pay Annaka and Deacon a visit every three to four months, improving Deacon’s training while also teaching Annaka and her family what they’ll need to know in order to get the most out of Deacon’s help.
In time, Annaka will earn a certification from SDWR, showing that she has completed their rigorous training program. By then, it’s safe to say Annaka won’t see Deacon as a service dog, but as a bestie.
Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers is a nonprofit organization based out of Madison, Virginia. They’ve already trained 600 service dogs who’ve helped more than 1,000 families. They need donations from people like you to help continue their incredible mission. You can learn more by visiting their website, and if you’d like to read more about Diabetic Alert Service Dogs in particular, you can do that here.
— I wish my own dog could do something as cool as what Deacon does. But alas, I can’t even toss a frisbee her way without her staring at it blankly as it sails overhead. Someday you’ll be good at something other than eating, sleeping, and pooping, Ripley. Someday.