Giving a type 1 diabetic part of their life back
After the death of her beloved Diabetic Alert Dog, EAC Waimea, Monique was placed with her new partner, EAC Jolo, in 2022. She shares an update below.
How does type 1 diabetes impact your life? What do you wish people knew about this disease?
"Type 1 diabetes is truly a life-changing condition," says Monique. "When I was first diagnosed my doctor made sure to tell my parents and me that I could still do all the things other kids did. This is all very true however, diabetes has a mind of its own and is a giant obstacle. There are a million extra decisions a day. A simple snack requires various math calculations. Sometimes your blood sugar just doesn’t work the way you want it to and it’s physically and mentally exhausting. You manage it and do your best because if you don’t the consequences are life threatening."
How is a Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD) life-changing and life-saving for you?
"Having a DAD definitely helps ease some of the burden. It’s hard to feel angry when the sweetest brown puppy eyes are staring at you. I was recently hospitalized for Diabetic Keto Acidosis (DKA), which is a serious complication of diabetes that can be life-threatening. DKA is most common among people with type 1 diabetes and develops when your body doesn't have enough insulin to allow blood sugar into your cells for use as energy. Instead, your liver breaks down fat for fuel, a process that produces acids called ketones. When too many ketones are produced too fast, they can build up to dangerous levels in your body.
EAC Jolo spent the day constantly alerting me and REFUSING to leave my side. Of course, I treated for every alert, and did my very best to correct my blood sugar but some things are out of our control. The next morning I was headed to the hospital. Without EAC Jolo’s constant concern I may have ignored my symptoms longer, but we caught it early, resulting in a much shorter hospital stay. Hospitals are depressing, DKA will change your plans in a second, and having the sweetest and most loving dog at your side definitely helps. He was also a HUGE hit with the nurses," Monique says.
What has your experience been since getting a successor dog?
"EAC Jolo is an extremely playful, lovable, and affectionate boy. His alerting is supreme and he truly brightens my day," shares Monique. "He has a different personality than EAC Waimea (Monique’s first DAD who died in 2021), but he works just as hard as she did. He knows exactly when I need him even when it’s not diabetes related. It has been hard at times. You try not to compare the two dogs but it’s inevitable when you play a game or take a walk in the same area that you once took your first dog and it is bitter sweet. You’re sad because you miss her but you’re also happy because you have this joyful being reminding you that life goes on and you’re ok."
Do you experience discrimination with a Service Dog? What would you like the public to know about this?
"I experienced discrimination numerous times with EAC Waimea," recalls Monique. "With EAC Jolo, things have been a bit calmer. I’m not sure if it’s because I have already setup certain boundaries at work or my family/friends are already used to being “puppy bodyguards”. I am a lot more confident in standing up for myself and for my DAD than I was 6 years ago. We were recently shopping and I stopped to look at an item on the shelf. Anyone who’s ever been to a large chain store knows there are items on shelves in the main walkways. I noticed a lady coming towards us so I stopped to let her go by before getting close to the item I was interested in. She proceeded to turn her camera to us and share with someone live on FaceTime. She recorded EAC Jolo and me like we were characters at a theme park! After explaining that we were not here for her entertainment she quickly apologized and moved along. A few years ago I would not have had the courage to respond so calmly and quickly. I would’ve been completely distraught and probably would have left the store without finishing my shopping.
I wish people understood that service dogs work for a wide range of disabilities and conditions. I wish people were better at putting their biases aside and understanding that I wouldn’t have him if I didn’t need him. Mostly, I wish people didn’t feel so entitled to him or me."
Why should a donor support EAC?
Monique says, "As with any diabetes treatment or technology, it’s not for everyone. A dog requires a lot of care and attention that frankly a lot of people are not willing to provide. A person with type 1 diabetes has so many things to deal with in addition to just simply living life. EAC provides life-saving companions. These dogs are trained to help us identify blood glucose changes faster than most of our technology and to help prevent the numerous complications that come with the disease.
They do not necessarily train the dogs for emotional support but I promise every last dog is proficient in providing love and understanding. You can’t cuddle with your insulin pump after a long day. Their work is truly unmatched and for a fraction of the cost these dogs are truly guardian angels. Supporting EAC is supporting the 5 year old T1D soccer player and her exhausted parents. It’s giving the 19 year old college student his independence back. It’s allowing spouses and caregivers a chance to sleep and ease their worries. But mostly, it’s giving a type 1 diabetic part of their life back. It’s helping with the physical and mental complications that come with a chronic illness and it’s providing an unbreakable bond that will last a lifetime."
Thank you, Monique and EAC Jolo! To read more of their story, click here.