• July 23, 2014

Special watchdog: Canines trained to assist people with diabetes

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Posted: Monday, April 14, 2014 4:30 am

When Branson Jordan’s blood sugar levels are too low, he gets shaky, his mouth goes numb and he gets weak. Six months ago, he blacked out while driving. Since then, he has became more serious about controlling his Type I diabetes.

“Lately, it’s been really hard for me to tell when my sugar is dropping,” said Jordan, 20, who was diagnosed when he was 7 years old.

Now, before those symptoms fully set in and lead to potentially dangerous situations, Jordan’s 10-month-old British Labrador, Orion, will alert him when his blood sugar levels are too high or too low.

When Jordan heard about diabetes alert dogs, he decided to do some research.

Jordan, of Greenville, Ky., was among about 10 diabetes patients from across the U.S. who met their alert dogs during a three-day training session that ended with a graduation ceremony Sunday at

Variety’s Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children in Killeen.

“He alerted me the first day we were down here. I didn’t know what he was doing, but he knew something wasn’t right,” said Jordan, who checks his blood sugar levels about seven or eight times a day and uses an insulin pump to regulate it. “He sat right in front of me and pawed at me.”

British Labradors given to diabetes patients begin their alert training when they’re just 24 hours old, said Roann Pearson, owner of Drey’s Alert Dogs in Jasper.

The patients send Drey’s Alert Dogs three swatches of their scent at least once a month, including when their blood sugar is low, high and normal.

“We train them with T-shirts and stuff so they’ll get used to the scent from the time they’re born ... that way they already kind of know the person when they come,” Pearson said.

The dogs come in handy because they can alert their sleeping owners of their low or high levels throughout the night as well as bring them the tools they need to check their levels, she said.

“The dogs are anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes ahead of their owners,” she said.

Even though Jordan was skeptical at first, now he plans to take Orion with him everywhere.

“It’s been pretty cool,” he said.

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