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November 01, 2012 06:06 PM

Dog Helps Owner Manage Diabetes


A word was omitted in a prior version of this story.

People with diabetes can have severe reactions if their blood sugar level gets too high or too low. Most diabetics use medication or eating behaviors to keep their blood sugar under control, but a Sioux Falls woman has a new approach: a diabetic-alert service dog.

Dawn Fode takes her dog, Teddy, with her everywhere. They've been a team for two months.

"Ten minutes, it took me ten minutes to fall head-over-heels in love with him," Fode said.

Not only does Fode love her standard poodle but she relies on him to protect her health.

"He will warn me when my blood sugar is about 75 on the way down, and at 75 I can still function very well. Somebody around me wouldn't notice it," Fode said.

Fode has had diabetes for 48 years. She's no longer able to tell when her blood sugar level gets too high or low.

"I have insulin reactions really quickly, and my blood sugar goes up very quickly," Fode said.

Before Fode had the dog, she did have several scary situations where her blood sugar level got too high or too low.

"A couple of them at work when I was working with patients. A couple of them in the car when I got lost and couldn't find my way to where I was supposed to be going," Fode said.

When Fode's blood sugar is out of the normal range, Teddy alerts Fode by tapping her on her hand. How does Teddy know? He can thank his good sense of smell, plus hours of training.

"When the body is going high on blood sugar, it will produce ketones the dog can sense.  And if they go low, the body is breaking down amino acids and putting off a urea the dog can smell," Sanford Dr. David Nelson said.

It's a sense of smell that could not only prove to be lifesaving but has also formed a bond between a woman and her new "best friend."

"If I walk out of the house and he's not with me, he gets very anxious. He always wants to be right next to me and follows me around the house when I'm at home," Fode said.

Fode purchased Teddy for $8,000 from an organization known as Scent Angels in the Twin Cities area. He wasn't covered by insurance.

If you'd like information on the latest products and services available to help deal with diabetes, there will be a "Living With Diabetes" event next Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Sanford USD Medical Center.

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This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A word was omitted in a prior version of this story.



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