Pet dog provides alerts for diabetic toddler

November 2010
Pet dog provides alerts for diabetic toddler



DALLAS — You expect dogs and kids to play well together, but for two-year-old Faith Wilson of Tyler, her specially-trained canine is a life-saver.

Faith's parents shared her story at the first annual K9s for Kids benefit, hosted by the Diabetes Friendly Foundation.

But even before our interview began, Ruby — Faith's tiny British terrier — sniffed and detected a scent that warned everyone that she was in trouble.

"I don't have a dog — I have an angel with fur!" said Faith’s mother, Sarah Wilson.

Faith's blood sugar level is like a roller coaster. Type 1 diabetes pushes her glucose count up; but five minutes later it's down.

Every day, Faith endures 15 to 20 finger pricks for a diabetes test. Ruby triggers them all.

Faith's mom says the dog provides the family with three different kinds of alerts — high blood sugar, low blood sugar and ketones.

Considered the first-ever diabetic alert dog for children under 12, Ruby warns Faith's mom by simply fetching a pink stick — an action that indicates Faith either needs insulin, or — like most preschoolers — she's got a sweet tooth.

"I look to Ruby; I don't listen to Faith, because she's learned to work it in the year she's had diabetes," Wilson said.

The dog's trainer, Rachel Thornton of Mississippi-based Wildrose Kennels, considers Ruby a true success story — but warns it's not always the case.

"We like to say that the dog is just an additional tool to add to your arsenal of tools to take care of your diabetic condition," Thornton said. "You are still responsible. This is just a dog; it will always be a dog."

It costs about $7,000 to retain a diabetic alert dog.