Today we have a guest post by Amy Hoh, who five years ago received a beautiful service dog named Cortez. She had been disabled for several years at the time, and Cortez has been a literal lifesaver. If you like this story, you can find more like it in the book Partners With Paws: Service Dogs and the Lives They Change, edited by Kyla Duffy.
I learned about service dogs from a friend at work who was a foster parent for a dog-in-training. He told me about all the wonderful things a service dog could do for me since I am in a wheelchair.
I applied to Circle Tail, Inc. to get a dog in the spring of 2006, and I went through training that June. When I received my service dog, Cortez, in July, we started working on tasks he could help me with. In training I learned that dogs can know when something is wrong with their owner. This was important for me because I have diabetes.
One day I breathed in Cortez face when my blood sugar was low and instructed him to bump my leg with his nose. This was the training to teach him to alert me to my low blood sugar, as when someone with diabetes has a low blood sugar, their breath smells like Juicy Fruit gum. Dogs can smell it much sooner than humans. Keep in mind, I only did this with him once.
One morning that September, Cortez came to my bedside and woke me up by bumping my leg. I thought he wanted to go outside, so I got in my wheelchair, went to the door, and opened it, but Cortez just stood there looking at me. I shut the door and went back into the kitchen. Cortez followed. I started going down the hall, but Cortez blocked my path. When I asked him what was wrong, he again bumped my leg. I thought surely he could not be alerting me to a low blood sugar, as we had only practiced one time.
I asked him to move, but he instead sat down and refused to budge. With him blocking my path, I figured I would go back in the kitchen and check my blood sugar, just in case. When I did, my rating was 60 A normal rating would be 80! Sure enough I was headed for a crash. I opened the refrigerator and drank a Coke, and my sugar level stabilized in about 10 minutes. The entire time Cortez did not leave my side.
Cortez, a big beautiful German Shepherd, truly is my lifesaver, and I do not know what I would do without him. Cortez gives a new meaning to mans (or womans) best friend.
This guest post is an excerpt from the book, Partners With Paws: Service Dogs and the Lives They Change, a compilation of 50 stories that highlight the important role service dogs play in peoples lives. From both puppy raiser and service dog team perspectives, readers gain an intimate understanding of service dog training, service dog team matching, and the liberating impact service dogs have on people with both visible and non-visible disabilities.