One day, K and I went up to walk around the local antique mall just to browse and brought Murphy along for an outing and training. We had no specific goal in mind other than walking around and looking. I found a cool lamp for $3 and K found a vise grip because you can never have enough vise grips. While he checked out, two women made over Murphy who is growing out of her fear-of-strangers phase.
Another woman and her husband were in line behind K. The very large woman was in a wheel chair. She asked to see Murphy, and so we walked over to her, a good experience for Murphy who'd not yet seen a person in a wheelchair. Well, the chair itself held no interest for her but she began sniffing at the woman and was getting harder to control. The woman's legs were swollen to the point of tight, something I'd seen in my dad with COPD and Type 2 Diabetes. Not yet paired with an alert for a high, I still could tell that Murphy was detecting this in this woman. The woman seems a bit surprised at Murphy's interest in her. Finished with our purchase, I was glad to leave before Murphy did an all out freak out "you're high and smell!".
The farrier came today. There is probably nothing nastier than the smell of clipped horse hooves. My dogs, however, relish these as if they were the finest escargot in a Parisian restaurant on the Seine. Murphy got her first taste of them this morning. Equally tasty, I found dried cod twists at Tractor Supply. They were on clearance but not expired. I'm thinking they didn't sell because they smell strongly of fish. Not exactly a great smell in the house. But then, a happy dog is a happy dog.
Murphy came up over the seat to bite at William sitting in the front passenger seat. She was insistent even after he loudly said, "NO!". Quickly, I told him that he could not react that way. He turned and changed his tone, thanking her and saying he was going to fix it. She didn't settle down until he pulled out his meter and tested. He was 48 mg/dL. Granted, her technique needs a little fine tuning but her message was received: "You, Boy, are low!"
The fitness bug has bitten my teenager and he has increased his working out routine while lowering his carbohydrate intake. Good for him, you might say! Each small change has the potential to completely change daily management of this beast of a disease. Basal programs written for a boy that likes pizza and video games don't work for a boy with a daily 1.5 to 2 hour work out and much fewer carbs. I've had little sleep this week and lots of lows.
Dexcom? Oh, yes, the Dexcom was working. Doing training with Murphy in the lobby of the gym, I texted boy when I saw he was dropping like a rock. "I'm fine." Repeating the message got me no where. While dropping from his high of 270 due to a ran-out-of-insulin pod change is a good thing, you have to stop it around 150 for this boy and in our experience. Turning off basal isn't enough. It seems cell phone vibrations from frantic text messages from your mom can't be felt while lifting weights.
So back in the car, the dog got across the message that mom was unable to. She is a puppy that sometimes wreaks havoc. She annoys the cats and my old dog. She tore up my one year old bonsai tree project. She saved my boy.
This world, I think, is very much in need of more puppies. People, when we are out, still recognize the puppy in Murphy, even if at thirty-eight pounds, she is starting to look more like a dog. They take a step, hesitate with a silly grin. I can tell, they want so much to pet her. The red service vest stops them. When I tell them she is "in training" and touching her would actually help us in training, I can only say it is a relief that seems to wash over them and they come forward. When you have a puppy with you, there are no strangers.
The ownership of a dog connects us, and I hear about their favorite dogs. They start slowly asking questions. And it is then that I realize that even if Murphy never alerts consistently, she has already performed a service to the diabetic community. Her presence gives me a platform to discuss Type 1 Diabetes and how a dog like Murphy can help. I spend many hours (usually waiting for William as he works out at the gym) educating people about T1D. She is an ambassador in her own right.
It was near the end of his endocrinologist visit when Murphy stirred, asleep under my chair. The doctor frowned and said, "Oh, there's a dog under there!" This is probably the best compliment a (Diabetic Alert Dog) DAD trainer could receive. He then began telling us that in his (unsolicited) opinion, a DAD was unnecessary with continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) technology.
Murphy dozing on bleachers at
William's basketball game
This dog, I explained, was being trained in time to be at her peak when William will go of to college. In addition, I was hoping that she will help him learn to awake at night when low. Well, the doctor continued, we could not rely upon the dog! The dog may not wake up!
This I know. I also know that William regularly sleeps through Dexcom CGM alarms, pod alarms, and fire alarms. Perhaps this will improve with age, but a persistent dog may be able to wake him when away at college. The doctor continued, "Well, can't you just call him on the phone if he is low?" Well, yes, but if he can't hear the CGM alarm what would be different enough to hear a phone ringtone?
I stopped him from all the "put a receiver in a metal bowl with pennies" advice because I've heard it. And, I get it - he doesn't see the need for the dog. He also, three years ago, saw little use for a CGM and detested Omnipod (insulin pumps). Now, he's advising that we rely on it, and only it. For us, it's all about layers of security. I totally get that this dog is not a guarantee. Life doesn't come with guarantees.
The storms were just letting up when I took Murphy out to "do her business" this morning. It was lightly raining and I could hear thunder in the distance. After going #1, it is her routine to find the perfect spot for #2 but she pulled me towards the door. I was surprised because she knows the routine and hasn't before shown an aversion to a bit of rain.
Reluctantly, knowing I'd have to take her again, I shut the door after taking her inside. The moment the door shut, lightning hit somewhere in my front yard. KA-BOOM!! I could see various colors through the door window, but being shorter than the window, not where it hit. So now, she is also a "you are about to get struck by lightning" alert dog.
The power had been out when I woke up. Despite a feeble attempt by William to say he could not now do his (Internet-based) homework, he and I headed with Murphy to the library. Well, first, we needed to eat, so despite the "ick" factor for me, we headed to William's choice of restaurant, Aw-ful House. Let's just say that under the table at Aw-ful House is not the best place for a SDiT (service dog in training) due to the difficulty in ignoring the bounty of droppings. Still, she did okay.
The library was the perfect spot to relax. She was socialized some, soothing a crying toddler who wanted very badly to go to McDonald's for an ice cream and to play instead of sit by her studying mama. Murphy mostly slept a great deal of the time, and I got to read my Smithsonian magazine and find out what happened to all those people years ago on Greenland! (Fascinating - you should read it here.)