A Camden teen now has a special new fur friend to help her manage her daily life.
Friday, October 28, Camden High School junior, Caroline Woolard, received a new service dog from Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers that will help her lead a healthier, more normal life.
Caroline was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes when she was 16 months old.
According to her mother, Lisa Woolard, Caroline was born prematurely. When she was 16 months old, her pancreas shut down and stopped producing insulin.
Lisa Woolard wants people to understand an important point: Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are not the same. With Type 1, the pancreas does not produce any insulin and the person is completely dependent on insulin injections. The mother, daughter and trainer, Erin Gray, explained that Type One Diabetes is very different from Type 2. For example, stress, hormones and weather are among many factors that can and do affect Caroline’s glucose levels. In the past, others could not understand how she was fine one day and the next she was not herself.
The short answer is Type 1 diabetes affects every day life.
“It was easier to control what Caroline ate when she was a baby, but I could do everything the same and her blood sugar would still go out of range,” Lisa said. “As she grew older, I could see the symptoms of high or low blood sugar displayed on her: headaches, stomachaches, grouchiness, nausea, double vision and others.”
Caroline wears an Omnipod, a rectangular shaped wireless insulin pump that is about the size of a car key remote. It’s controller, or PDM, can test blood sugar and tell the pod to give insulin throughout the day.
Caroline’s new service dog is a one-year-old yellow Labrador retriever named Teddy. She received him from a non-profit organization called Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers; they are known to train service dogs to aide people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD), Type 1 diabetes, autism and seizures.
According to Erin Gray, senior trainer at SDWR, Labrador and golden retrievers are naturally great retrievers. These dogs are notorious for having a great sense of smell; therefore, based on chemical reactions in Caroline’s blood, Teddy knows when her blood sugar is out of range. She also said Caroline’s new dog will alert her or her family members when her blood glucose levels are too low or too high before they become severe.
According to SDWR’s website, their diabetic alert dogs help with high and low blood sugar alerts and early high/low detection; the dogs can learn to retrieve food and medication (glucose tabs, juice, insulin, and meters) for their diabetic owners and dial 911 with a special device.
Caroline may be thought of as this generation’s “Mary had a little lamb” because Teddy will go everywhere she goes. He will not go to school with her just yet, but he went to church and a cross country meet with her during their first weekend together.
The high school junior runs cross country and track; she also plans to go to college and become a neonatologist. Her parents believe Teddy will be great for 24/7 monitoring of Caroline while she is in college.
The family had to go through a process to receive Teddy.
“I attend a week long diabetes camp every summer and I was told of how helpful the diabetic alert dogs were and I knew that one would be great for me,” Caroline said. “Last summer (2015) I started doing a bunch of research, and SDWR was the best organization for a diabetic alert dog.”
SDWR is a nonprofit organization. The training of a service dog is close to $50,000. The Woolards, like any other family that receives a dog from SDWR, pledged $25,000 to aide in continuing the mission of SDWR. Members of Caroline’s church, Bethesda Presbyterian, family and friends helped to raise the money. The church held a car wash that raised over $1,000 which completed the Woolard family’s pledge.
Gray wants people to know that while families have a certain goal for raising money for a dog, they often exceed it, which is what happened to the Woolard family. This helps to offset the cost of a service dog for the family.
“We applied last November, a detailed application had to be answered about Caroline, we signed about a 30 page contract, Caroline had to be approved and her doctors were told that she was getting a service dog,” Lisa said.
According to Gray, they have to ask detailed questions because SDWR tailors the training of the dog for each family. Puppies are first raised by volunteers for 8-16 months. The dogs then go to a SDWR facility for specialized training before delivery to a family.
“I stay with the family for four days to teach the family how to handle a service dog in public. We informed the local fire department and 911 dispatch in the case of an emergency,” Gray said.
The organization sends a trainer to the Woolard family every 3-4 months for the next 18 months for a 2 day visit to further Teddy’s training.
“Whatever her daily routine is, Teddy is involved,” Gray said. “Whenever she tests her blood sugar, she involves him and that will help to train Teddy to aide her when she is out of range.”
Caroline’s mother commented as to how this affects home life.
“We have an inside dog, and she and Teddy have become friends already,” Lisa said. “Teddy will be Caroline’s responsibility, and her, his. He will sleep with her at night because with Type 1 diabetes, her blood sugar levels can change at anytime.”
Gray said Teddy will be trained later with the 911 contact device. The device will have the contact information for Caroline’s family to dial when pushed in case her blood glucose levels become too severe for her to be able to treat herself.
“If a contact does not answer, the device will alert 911 and dispatch will receive a prerecorded message saying ‘I am a Type 1 diabetic and I have a service dog. He is contacting you because I am having a diabetic emergency,’” Gray said.
The one point Gray reiterated was that she knows it is hard to ignore a cute dog like Teddy, but when individuals see a service dog in public they cannot pet or otherwise distract them.
“He will wear a service dog vest in public to inform people that he is a service dog,” Gray said. “The rule for any service dog is no talk, no touch, and no direct eye contact. If people distract him, it could be life threatening to Caroline.”