Diabetic Alert Dog Helps West Seneca Girl

10:53 PM, Apr 3, 2013   |    comments
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WEST SENECA, N.Y. -- A West Seneca 6-year-old is adjusting to life with her new diabetic alert puppy.

The girl's parents say the dog has already potentially saved her life several times.

Hayden Van Hauwaert is busy getting to know her new puppy, but 13-week-old Maggie is not a pet. She is a service dog.

"She alerts the highs and lows," says Hayden,

"How does she do that?" asked Channel 2's Kelly Dudzik.

"She, like, whines or barks or she gets all over me," says Hayden.

Earlier this year, Hayden found out she has Type 1 Diabetes. That's when her parents decided to get a diabetic alert dog. Many believe certain dogs can be trained to tell when someone's glucose levels are getting dangerously low or high. The Van Hauwaerts found a breeder in Salt Lake City, and last week, flew Maggie home. That's when Maggie leapt into action.

"Hayden's sugar was dropping, my sugar was dropping. I was carrying the puppy and she starts nibbling at my ears, and she's looking at Hayden and crying," says Joelle, Hayden's mom.

Maggie does not replace the self-testing Hayden does several times a day, but she is part of Hayden's diabetes management plan.

"If anything, Hayden went from checking her blood from six to ten times a day to now like 15-20 because every time the dog alerts, we make her check," says Hayden's mom.

Those in the diabetic community agree that owning a diabetic alert dog, like Maggie, can be an additional tool to help monitor glucose levels, but they also offer a word of caution.

"There is no quick fix. If someone says they can train a dog in two months and get them to you, you should run. I mean, there's no shortcuts," says Lisa Kelly who runs Dogs for Cures in Washington.

The Van Hauwaerts say they are confident in their research and Maggie's ability to let them know when Hayden needs medical attention.

"If she's low or high in the middle of the night, she'll howl. And, it's very scary at two o'clock in the morning when you're dead asleep and you hear something howling," says Joelle.

And, Hayden is looking forward to Maggie eventually spending the entire school day with her when she is fully trained in obedience school. 

"She's, like, a good dog. I brought her in to school, and showed it," says Hayden. 

We also talked with a Buffalo nurse who cautions that there are no scientific studies out yet showing that glucose alert dogs work. Nurse Natalie Bellini says they are controversial in the diabetic community, and added that you have to make sure you keep using your monitor. 

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