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A Courageous Duo graduates from Skilled Companion to Full Access!

Updated: Dec 29, 2022

In 2022, Gracie and her Diabetic Alert Dog, EAC Ophelia, transitioned from a Skilled Companion to a Full Access team. Skilled Companion dogs are placed with children, families with multiple diabetics, and some adults. They do most of their alert work in the home, while still maintaining public access rights. Full Access dogs are placed with adults and/or children age 12 and older. They attend work, school, extracurricular activities, errands, etc., with their diabetic partner.

Gracie and EAC Ophelia, Brady Thomas Photography

How does type 1 diabetes impact your life?


"When we first got the diagnosis, it was scary and challenging. There was so much that was unknown and we were afraid. It restricted our independence immediately and felt like we were going through a grieving process. The disease impacts every aspect of your life. Knowing there is no cure and that it will last forever made us feel that we had lost everything we knew our lives to be before that diagnosis," shares Gracie's mom Wendy.


"I didn't really know what was happening to me," says Gracie, who was just 7 years old when she was diagnosed."


What do you wish people knew about this disease?


Type 1 diabetes represents only 5% of all diabetics in the United States. The autoimmune disease is often misunderstood and confused with type 2 diabetes.


Wendy shares, "People often incorrectly think this disease is only about eating sugar! There's so much more to it than that. This disease cannot be prevented and there is no known cure. Insulin-therapy is vital, and being careful with diet is important, but this disease is not caused by eating sugar and it's not cured by avoiding food either. There is a great deal of judgement that comes along with this disease. People often assume that you somehow did this to yourself or confuse lifestyle management tools for type 2 diabetes with type 1 diabetes. The diseases may be related but they are very different! This creates a relationship with food that can be challenging. Type 1 diabetes is often referred to as an "invisible disease". Just because someone may not be able to see or perceive someone as "sick", that doesn't mean that they are not. It's important to understand the facts about the disease before passing judgement."


"If people are curious about the disease," says Gracie, "they should ask questions and allow time for the explanation, so they can learn, and be less judgmental. It's important to do research, and get answers from experts."


How is a Diabetic Alert Dog life-changing and life-saving for you?

Gracie and EAC Ophelia in public access certification

When Gracie was paired with her Diabetic Alert Dog, EAC Ophelia, she gained a new independence, knowing her partner was by her side, actively alerting her in advance of rapidly changing blood-sugar levels.


"Having a Diabetic Alert Dog provides a sense of security, something special just for Gracie, and in a way, a good thing among the craziness. It gives us a sense of freedom back. We could sleep again, no longer needing to wake every hour! EAC Ophelia gave us all our lives back!" shares Wendy.


Gracie shares, "Moving from Skilled Companion to Full Access has really changed my life. It's been nice to have her with me, and it's made going to school something I can look forward to."


Do you experience discrimination with a Service Dog?


Gracie shares, "I have explain to people that they cannot pet her, but they usually understand. Sometimes people make assumptions about the disease or the dog and that can be challenging."


Why should a donor support Early Alert Canines?


"EAC helps people with insulin-dependent diabetes to find the dog that is right for them, and they can live a better life, knowing their dog will make a difference," shares Wendy. "The dog impacts far beyond just the client, it allows a sense of freedom for everyone in the family and is a vital life-line."


Is there anything else you'd like to share?


"We want to remember to share our thanks with EAC Ophelia's Puppy-Raiser. They helped nurture her and develop a really intelligent dog! It's a very emotional connection that we have and we are grateful," shares Wendy and Gracie!


Creating a legacy!


In 2022, Gracie and EAC Ophelia partnered with Brady Thomas Photography to create a fine art legacy. From her gorgeous studio in a waterfront historic loft in Benicia, CA, Brady Thomas specializes in beautiful fine art portraits and images that are carefully and joyfully designed to capture your legacy, and meant to last a lifetime. Brady Thomas is familiar with working with service dogs and welcomes the opportunity to discover and celebrate your unique story!




A special message from Brady Thomas:



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