It Takes Everyone

I was driving to work and thinking about what all goes into a diabetic alert dog.  The amount of training, the amount of teaching, the tears, the fears, and all the different ways it can be done.  I came to a very simple conclusion...IT TAKES EVERYONE being committed. Not just the diabetic, but the diabetics family, friends, and trainers.  NO ONE does this alone and when they try to do it alone they often end up just that alone.  There are a million ways to train a dog and if you ask any trainer THEIR WAY IS RIGHT.  We by nature want to control dogs...we want to control diabetes as well... with neither of them does that work real well.  We can teach, bend, mold, respond but both have MINDS OF THEIR OWN!

It takes everyone bringing SOMETHING to the table and US BEING OPEN to that to make the full picture come together. The thing is it isn't a still picture it is more like an ongoing movie or video.  People, places, and ideas come and go all the time.  We interact, we laugh, we love, we share, and we go on living our "picture".   My "picture" is not your "picture".....it is sometimes a shared screen but we are each separate.

In my dog "life" I have had the PRIVILEGE and HONOR to be around some pretty amazing trainers in their own right.  John M., Amy G., Robert R., Edie S., Evelyn S., Mary Ann N., Anne I., Gosia S., Tom and Katie Q. and I am sure I missing A LOT.  As much as I admire them and like how they train I am not them.  I can only borrow ideas and methods and mold them into methods that are useful for me.

In my diabetes "life" I have Kim M., Amy G., and a WHOLE SLEW of wonderful diabetics who are from all around the world and online.  I can admire each of them.  I think they do amazing jobs of dealing with the diabetes....but I am not them.  I have to take bits and pieces and borrow them to manage my own diabetes.

In my DAD "life" there are the breeders of my wonderful dogs, but there is also all of the wonderful teams that challenge me each and every day to think outside of the box.  To find solutions to problems to help others.  Shana E., Trista H. Charity R. Craig F., and Theresa F. are but just a few who have pushed and molded me and my ideas around DAD's.  They all live with diabetes in some way.  They all get the diabetes....but even more than that they are MY FRIENDS!  They are the get down and dirty..thick and thin..no matter what happens I love em kind of friends.  There are so many DAD teams that I work with and know of that I cant even begin to list them all but all of them come to mean something very special to me and each one of them has brought my a gift of learning something new about our 4 legged friends!

Now having said all of that......IT HAS TAKEN EVERY ONE OF THE ABOVE PEOPLE AND ALL OF THE ONES THAT I FORGOT TO MENTION for me to be who and what I am.  For my dogs to be who and what they are.  Our dogs and ourselves are at this moment the sum of all of our previous experiences and every one of those experiences.

So for those of you who are just starting this journey never ever discount and information that you may hear, see, or experience!  It may not apply to this dog but somewhere down the line it will apply to another dog.  See each interaction as an opportunity to learn more and don't forget to thank your friends and family!


This Just Came out in the American Cheapeake Bulletin!



Bravo was born in McCammom, ID on December 2, 2005; I received him as a gift from Steve and Sharon Parker of Sunshine Kennels early in 2006. I didn't plan for him to remain with me, I had another home already lined up for him when he turned two. I had trained and competed with Labs and simply wanted to see if my training practices had advanced enough to train a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. I had no clue that when this brown bundle of fur came into my home that my life was about to be forever changed.


As a pup Bravo was a funny little joker, full of joy and happily bringing laughter to whatever situation we were in. Before he was a year old I exposed him to as many new experiences as I could.



Bravo had *heart* and he always tried. He occasionally made wrong choices, but as long as he put forth effort and tried I was happy. Working with him, I realized that Chessies are not for everyone and they are definately not for a novice trainer!



At 12 months of age Bravo passed the tests and became a registered Delta Therapy Dog. We volunteered at Aspen Ridge Rehabilitation Hospital working with a therapist and patient. Bravo took people for walks, pulled wheelchairs and played all sorts of retriever games. We would help stroke victims practice speech by having them give him commands, other times he would lay quietly as patients re-learned to move their limbs to pet or brush him. People will often do things with and for therapy animals that they won't do for their Doctors or nurses.


His registered name is Fetch Express Bravo Zula SH, CDX, RN, NAJ. He also jammed a Qualifying stake at the only AKC Field Trial I entered him in. He is an accomplished dock jumper with a personal best of 23' 7" in Big Air (broad jump) and 6' 10” in super vertical (high jump). Bravo has twice been nominated for the AKC ACE award (Award for Canine Excellence) in 2010 and 2011.

In 2011 Bravo won the K9 Hero of the Year Award at the Soldier Hollow Sheepdog Classic in Utah. He was also in a Cabela’s commercial and he is the Cover Dog of the 2012 Cabela’s Lab calendar. (Yes, a Chessie is the
cover dog - I am not sure if Cabela’s knows that or not, LOL!)


Bravo is also my hunting partner, he is an incredible waterfowl and upland hunting dog. He has more ribbons, medals and plaques than I have wall space for. While all of this is amazing and shows what an incredible dog he is, there is one more skill that I would gladly trade every ribbon, medal, and plaque that we have received for. You see, Bravo is also my Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD).

I am a Type 1 Diabetic with hypoglycemic unawareness. My pancreas does not produce enough insulin and I do not realize it when my blood glucose drops too low. Bravo alerts me to my low levels as well as my highs. He first alerts me that there is a change happening; I then I ask “What is it?” and he either waves a paw at me for high blood glucose or he bows for low blood glucose. Bravo has allowed me to remain active doing the things that I love.

While Bravo has brought hope and comfort to me, he has also brought hope to others with diabetes. People see him in action and become driven to improve their own lives with a trained DAD dog. He helps teach both the diabetic and their family how to properly handle dogs. He also alerts the family if *their* blood glucose is too high or too low. Bravo has alerted countless people with diabetes in elevators, in airplanes, at sporting venues and in Doctors offices. Basically anywhere there are people, Bravos' nose is at work.

At a recent Diabetic Alert Dog Conference, Bravo was working with a teenage diabetic while I was instructing a class. This young man is anxiously awaiting his own Diabetic Alert Dog but is currently on a waiting list. Suddenly, Bravo began alerting him that his blood glucose was getting low. He quickly got his meter and checked his blood, it confirmed the beginning stages of a low blood sugar. A dangerous low was avoided for this young man.

This is HUGE in the life of a diabetic! With tears in their eyes his parents came up and said "That is the most incredible thing we have ever seen! We know that when we get our own dog that will be common, but this moment with Bravo will always be special for our son and for us - he gave us our first real time alert to a low blood sugar."

Bravo helps me train other dogs to perform this much needed service through playful competition and the goal of being first to inform the diabetic of a low sugar. He misses very few low or high blood sugars on me and he is a perfect example for other dogs to learn from.

Bravo’s alerting has caused us to be disqualified in a few competitions, but I truely don’t care. He has proven that his number one job is to tell me when my blood sugars are off no matter what he is doing or where he is. The "nose" knows, and he tends to be about 15 to 30 minutes ahead of the blood glucose meter, 30 to 45 minutes ahead of a continuous blood glucose monitor.

Here are just a few of his more memorable alerts from the last year - I was judging an AKC test in OR. and Bravo alerted to me from over 400 yards away. While out hunting, he refused to retrieve downed birds until I fixed my blood glucose. Bravo alerted while we were receiving an award at the Soldier Hollow Sheep Dog Classic. While running an agility course, he suddenly stopped, came across in front of me, and would not let me move because my blood glucose had dropped dangerously low. Another time Bravo was inside the house while I was out doing yard work when my blood glucose dropped rapidly. He could not get to me, so using his nose he raised the window a bit farther and pushed out the screen. He then ran to me and alerted. There has not been a day in the last few years that he has not had to alert, and he averages five alerts a day.

His story is a testament to what an amazing breed the Chesapeake Bay Retriever truly is. Bravo is a very talented dog, my own personal guardian angel and my hero! This dogs' dedication and service to me is above and beyond anything that I have ever experienced in my life. I am so humbled, honored and truely blessed to have him in my life. My heartfelt thanks to Steve and Sharon Parker for the wonderful gift that has literally saved my life!

Here a few of the local news links about Bravo…




And Bravo has his own facebook page!


I also try to keep up with a blog about Bravo, DAD’s and diabetes!




I am starting a team up for our JDRF walk. I would like to invite any of my DAD and dog friends to join my team and help raise funds and awareness of diabetes and DADS. If you would like to join my team you can sign up on the link below. If you just want to come walk that is great to. Let me know ASAP if you are interested cause I want to have matching t shirts made up. The theme is "COWBOY UP...."


If you want to donate to this wonderful cause that would be great as well!


Diabetes Hero

Who are your diabetic hero's?  I have many!

The first one is all of the parents who get up in the middle of the night to check their child's bg!  I do not know how they do it!  I am awed by the strength that they have, the commitment and dedication to help their children stay on top of this disease! Hats off to each of you!

The second one is my friend Kim McClure.  She is a Certified Diabetic Educator here in SLC. Kim  changed by opinion of the health profession!  She taught me how to live with this disease by example.  Kim has been diabetic for over 30 years and is the most amazing lady I have ever had the privilege to meet.  She is caring, compassionate, dedicated, loyal, a fighter, and she has the most amazing sense of humor!  Kim has laughed with me, cried with me, and walked me through each and every day of this journey!  Kim has been my counselor, my confident, my coach, my adviser, my friend, and my hero!  Kim has taught me how to laugh at this disease, she has given me courage and hope to face another day!

My third hero(s) are my dogs Bravo and Radar.  Bravo is the most incredible dog I have ever owned!  I still get teary eyes and goosebumps when I think of all this dog does!  This past weekend he alerted over 80 times in just over 2 days on 4 different diabetics. That is not an exaggeration and it was witnessed by many! He didn't miss and he was never wrong!  He blows my mind with his abilities!  I am so blessed to have him and Radar in my life!

Who are your heros and why???  We all need those people that make us get up and face another day!


What They Should Know

This post is suppose to be about what the world should know about diabetes!  There are many things that I would like to announce to the world.  Mostly I wish people would stop being so stupid about the things they say to a diabetic.  I wish they would stop showing how stupid they truly are about service dogs!   This "stupidity" knows no bounds when it comes to either of those subjects.  Let me give you 2 examples that have happened the last week alone!

A good friend of mine who has a wonderful service dog was in a very well known fast food chain when he was ask to leave because of his dog! His dog was wearing a vest that CLEARLY identified him as a service dog.  His owner is very aware of ADA laws and was trying to educate...but the police were called.  The policeman showed up and showed his ignorance by announcing "this is private property...you have to leave".  To make it all worse my friend was has a low bg during all of this!   From the ADA website it states CLEARLY  in commonly asked questions that  any "private" business (ie restaurant) that serves the public cannot discriminate on an individual or service animal and animal must be allowed in areas where public are commonly allowed.  They tried to talk to the police officer and show him the ADA card and he replies "I KNOW THE LAW".  Needless to say.....my friend now has grounds to sue based on discrimination.....all because he is a T1 diabetic that has a service dog!

Then I had my own run with stupidity when I flew to TN last week.  The T.S.A. in Salt Lake were a bear to deal with.  I have flown A LOT with Bravo and have never had any trouble but this experience has me wanting to drive rather than fly!  In fact here is the copy of the letter that I sent to T.S.A.

To Whom This May Concern:

I am a T1 diabetic with a service dog. I have flown out of SLC airport probably 60 times in the last few years. Normally it all goes smooth but last Thursday was a NIGHTMARE.

I have a new insulin pump and was advised to NOT let it go through any xrays....so I ask if they would hand check my insulin pump. All of my other stuff went through the normal xray procedures. Flying with a service dog I get everything ready and then strip him at the last minute. I put him on a down and I walk through and then he is called through. All normal at this point. No alarms nothing out of normal. I go to pick up my dogs equipment mostly his collar and leash that went through xray and a gentlemen yells (YES YELLS) DONT TOUCH THAT. I said " sir it his leash and collar ...I dont think we want a SD loose in the airport". Just leave it and come with me. At this point a female officer comes over and says "BECAUSE of the INSULIN PUMP we need to do a pat down" Ok but can I have my leash and collar for my dog? We have to check it. OK......fine. SO I put my dog on a down where he should be out of the way. He is laying there while I am getting patted down. He is watching very closely as service dogs are used to seeing their owners handled that way, She states 'he is watching me funny" I tell her " they aren't used to it" about that time another agent comes over to get empty pans which are on a cart next to my dog. He promptly knocks them over on top of my dog who spooks a little. I am not talking loud noise close I am talking big things landing on my dog. Again I am chastised for moving and it "felt" like I was being discriminated all for being a diabetic who NEEDS an insulin pump! The best one is shortly after that one of the agents while going through my stuff drops my dogs REWARD BALL for alerts on floor. When Bravo gets up to get it he starts hollering "DON'T TOUCH THAT" . I finally get done and thanks to all the stress of that I have a very bad hypoglycemic reaction.

I tell you all of that to ask some questions:

1. HOW is the best way to handle our insulin pumps???? On my return trip I just let them x-ray it as I figure it is far better to do that than deal with that crap again. I wish I didn't have to fly often but I do...so can I please get some guidance on how to make this smoother?

2. Why can a dog not be given back their lead while being patted down? I have NEVER had trouble like this before and most often get lots of compliments on how well my dog behaves. The few times I have been patted down it was NOTHING like this.

Thank you for your time in responding to this....I understand you have a job to do....and thank you for that..but I need some help so this don't happen again!
KC Owens
I then get this reply from T.S.A.:
FROM TSA: "Thank you for your comments, regarding your experience while traveling. Specifically, you expressed dissatisfaction with the way you were treated by the Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) here in Salt Lake City.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) SLC regrets any unprofessional treatment you may have experienced at the security checkpoint. TSA seeks to provide a high level of security and customer service to all travelers who pass through our screening checkpoints. Every person and item must be screened before entering each secured area, and the way the screening is conducted is important. Our policies and procedures focus on ensuring that all passengers, regardless of their personal situations and needs, are treated with dignity, respect, and courtesy. I have forwarded your concerns to the security managers to pull the video tapes of your screening to review and see what happened. From your description I agree that you should have been allowed to place your dog’s collar and leash back onto the dog for security. I apologize and I hope the officer did as well for spilling items on the dog. I hope this did not upset your dog too much. Because insulin pumps are attached to the person, the only way TSA can clear them is to do a pat-down. I know this can be uncomfortable. You can always request a private screening, and also request a supervisor to assist you. "
I am not done with them yet so I write this reply :
"Can I ask a few more questions please?

I am trying hard to come up with ways to make this easier for everyone involved. What
if I disconnect from the pump for the few minutes that it takes to go through security?
Is there a way to just check the pump without it going through the xray stuff?
Everything but that? Then hand screen the insulin pump only while the rest of my stuff
and me and the dog go through regular screening??

Thank you for your time.....I really am trying to figure out how to make this smoother.
I really don't want to ruin a 10k piece of equipment but I really don't want a repeat
performance of the last time. I have 4 more trips coming up in the near future and this
is the FIRST TIME I have ever had this happen. EVER! When I fly out of a morning I
usually walk over to the International side...they are not nearly as busy and it has
always gone smooth!

Thanks again

ANd her last reply : "You can send the insulin pump through the X-ray, but if you ask for it to be hand screened then they will have to do the pat down process.  I would just ask for a supervisor, tell him/her that you had an unfortunate, bad experience the last time.  If you need to be patted down, can you have a private screening with your dog?"
I have a better idea..........how about the pump companies figure out how to make xray safe for our pumps!  For petes sake every other electronic thing goes through security just fine...why cant an insulin pump????? Come on T.S.A. there are roughly 3 MILLION  Type 1 diabetics in the US.  A big chunk of them have insulin pumps and most have probably flown at least some.   
Add all of these "outside" ignorant responses on top of all the things we live with diabetes and no wonder we sometimes get  a tad surly  when we are low! 

Please folks..."think before you speak" and SOMEBODY PLEASE FIX T.S.A!