Linda Smith’s daily routine includes checking her insulin levels almost every two hours. But even with her diligent checks and healthy lifestyle, Smith, who suffers from Type 1 Diabetes, can never be sure of her blood sugar levels.
“Because I have hypoglycaemic unawareness it means my blood sugar level can drop suddenly with no warning signs or symptoms,” she explained.
Recently, Smith has been feeling a little more secure in her daily routine because of a new (and furry) friend.
“Juno allows me a type of independence I’ve never experienced,” said Smith.
Juno, a 16-month old yellow Labrador, came from the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides program. He is a Diabetic Alert Dog Guide and is trained to smell changes in Smith’s breath which alert him to low blood sugar levels.
“It’s especially helpful for me at night when I’m sleeping because that’s a time when I can go into hypoglycaemic unawareness and just not wake up,” explained Smith, adding that Juno is always by her side, even when she’s watching TV on the couch.
“He works all day every day with the exception of about 30 minutes a day when he has free time in which he usually likes to play ball. He’s definitely hyper just like me,” Smith laughed.
Smith, who was put on the waiting list for an assistance dog last August said she was elated to have received a dog so quickly.
“It’s all based on the temperament of the dog and how well they match with the applicants and Juno and I just got lucky. We are a great match and he is already such an important part of my life,” she said.
The two spent time training together at the Dog Guides headquarters in Ontario before coming out to B.C. Now Juno is one of only two Diabetic Alert Dog Guides in B.C. and he is the only one on Vancouver Island.
“I think people are confused by him sometimes because on the outside I look like a perfectly healthy person,” said Smith.
“A lot of people ask if I’m just training him and are always surprised to learn that he’s my assistance dog.”
Smith said the many of the same rules apply to Juno as do other service dogs, the main one being that he can’t be touched.
“The one thing with him is that he has to stay focused on me so people can acknowledge him but I am the only one who is allowed to touch him,” Smith explained.
Smith said having Juno has ultimately changed her life.
“Having him means having absolute independence,” said Smith.
“It means I don’t need a partner, I don’t need a roommate, I don’t need someone constantly watching over me. I have the ability to live alone now, or go out alone and that’s freeing.”
For more information on Dog Guides visit www.dogguides.com.