Sara Swanson

Klager kindergartener’s family raising funds for diabetic alert dog

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Gavin Myers. Photo courtesy of the Myers family.

Gavin Myers is in many ways just like his kindergarten classmates at Klager Elementary School, but in addition to the regular challenges that come with starting school, four-year-old Gavin has type 1 diabetes.

A year and a half ago, Gavin was very sick and had stopped eating; he was drinking a lot and he lost weight. His parents took him to the emergency room and found out that his blood sugar was over 1,000. They learned that he was diabetic and would be dependent on insulin for the rest of his life. He checks his blood sugar often, starting off with insulin shots and now has an insulin pump. Although diligent at checking his blood sugar, sometimes he can’t feel when his sugar levels are high or low to know to check.

One solution for diabetics is an alert dog. These dogs can detect a change in a person’s blood sugar roughly 15-20 minutes before a glucose meter even shows that there is a problem.  The dogs are trained to “alert” so the person knows there is a potential problem and allows them time to test and treat a high or low blood sugar before it becomes dangerous. But these dogs take a long time to be trained and can cost up to $20,000.

The Myers family is working with a 501(c)3 organization, Canines of Hope, based out of Ann Arbor. Their mission is to support and counsel families on their fundraising journey for Diabetic Alert Dog. One of the founders of Canines of Hope is Manchester resident Leslie Naebeck, who worked to raise funds and awareness of the need for alert service dogs in order to be able to acquire an alert service dog for her daughter, Ella in 2014. Ella and her family’s success story with her dog Hudson now serves as a model for other families of children with diabetes to follow.

Canines of Hope works with Alert Service Dogs Inc. out of Indianapolis. Alert Service Dogs Inc. explains that certain types of dogs are able to do more with their advanced ability to smell than others. They state, “Scent dogs take full advantage of their superior sense of smell. A dog’s smelling capacity is 10 -50+ times stronger than man’s. They have the capability of ‘tasting’ smells, as well as categorizing scents and associating smells with specific human responses. It’s because of their amazing scenting abilities that they can detect the change in blood sugar levels in humans. We train them to not only recognize the change, but react to the change, as well. That reaction, in real time, helps us know when a change is actively happening. To a diabetic, that real-time reaction can be crucial.”

Canines of Hope has a long list of children and their families in Washtenaw County they are currently working with to help fundraise toward the purchase of diabetic alert dogs. While Gavin’s family is in the planning stages of a fundraising event, if you would like to donate money right now toward an alert dog for Gavin, you can donate online at http://caninesofhope.org or you can mail a check to Canines of Hope, 4911 Schneider Rd., Ann Arbor, Mi 48103. Be sure to note Gavin’s full name as there are two Gavins the organization is currently working with. Donations are tax-deductible.

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