Meet Junie & Brenna!
This week for Working Dog Wednesday, we’re featuring an incredible Golden Retriever with life-saving abilities. This one and a half year old service dog, named Junie, is specially trained to use her powerful sense of smell to detect her handler's blood sugar levels.
A dangerous blood sugar level can become a life-threatening situation for Brenna, a talented artist, and Type 1 Diabetic. Luckily, Junie is always by her side to keep her safe. Check out this amazing pup’s story!
Tell us about Junie’s job. How does she know when to alert you?
"Junie can detect (smell) a rise or drop in blood sugar about 15 minutes before myself or any piece of technology can. When she picks up on the scent, she is trained to come over to me and place one paw on my leg. She will do this repeatedly until I acknowledge her. This allows me to test my blood sugar and act accordingly.
She is also trained to intentionally disobey me if I am not responding to her alert signals. She will not give up until I acknowledge her alert, give her a treat, and attend to my blood sugar."
What is the training involved for Diabetic Alert Dogs?
"Junie spent a year training with a company called Diabetic Alert Dogs of America. There, she learned basic obedience commands, as well as scent training. With scent training, the trainers used sample of my spit on cotton balls (that I froze and mailed to them- weird, I know! Lol) at different blood sugar levels.
Dogs are able to smell this scent, as higher blood sugars give off a fruity smell, while lower blood sugars give off a more acidic smell."
Why did you decide to get a service dog?
"I decided to get a service dog for an extra sense of safety and security. Although service dogs are not robots and will not always be perfect, I knew Junie would catch a lot of things that I could not. Low blood sugars are especially scary, as you can pass out, have a seizure, and potentially go into a coma o even die (if low blood sugar is not treated quickly enough). Junie is able to pick up on tiny drops and spikes that my body simply doesn’t pick up on, and this allows me to keep my blood sugar in tighter range."
Why are Diabetic Alert Dogs so effective, especially compared to devices?
"Dogs’ noses are incredible things. They are highly sensitive to smell (much more better than humans) and so Junie is able to pick up on a rise or drop in my blood sugar long before I can or any piece of technology currently on the market."
How has Junie changed your life?
"As a type 1 diabetic, my life comes with a lot of worry, anxiety, and constant monitoring. Junie has give me some peace as well as being a great (and cute!) companion."
What is Junie’s favorite activity?
"Junie’s favorite activity is fetch. She is obsessed (and probably in love) with her Kong ball. She also enjoys running in and eating snow."
Do you have a cool story of Junie you would like to share?
"Amazingly, diabetic alert dogs can pick up on other people’s blood sugar scents- not just their owner’s. I have a friend who is a type 1 diabetic like me, and Junie alerted him! It was pretty cool to see."
A huge thank you to Brenna for sharing your unique story! We loved learning about Junie and her incredible job as a Diabetic Alert Dog. @junie_theservice_dog