Leiden, Massachusetts (WWLP) – After a two-year wait, a young college student now has a special four-legged companion with a mutual love of Hallmark movies and the outdoors to keep her buddies, but more importantly, safe.
In October, Julia Dupre was introduced to a new best friend named Pretzel. Pretzel is a 14 month old diabetes alarm dog, the type of service dog that helps people with diabetes detect dangerously low or high blood sugar levels.
In 2004 at the age of six Julia was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which means that Julia’s body is unable to produce or produces too little insulin. This makes them unable to control their blood sugar levels which can be life-threatening.
“Diabetes alert dogs are mostly trained by scent,” Dupree said. Diabetic alert dogs are trained to be able to decipher and detect glucose levels through the scents expelled from their owners’ breath and comfort. It is these special scents that allow Pretzel to detect and alert Julia’s levels. A sweet or fruity smell indicates that Julia levels are high, and a sweaty smell indicates that Julia levels are low.
“Yeah, no, she’s just like in addition to being my lifeline, she’s also like my best friend and mate. She sleeps on my bed every night, sleeps with me and my cat, which is the cutest thing ever,” said Dupree. A very patient diabetic dog, but Julia is really grateful to her.Julia has been on a waiting list for two years and during that time she has raised money and asked for support from her community.
Alarm dogs for diabetics are expensive and range from 5 thousand to 10 thousand dollars, and unfortunately they are not covered by insurance. “I received Pretzel entirely through donations on GoFundMe. “I’ve received donations from friends, family and actually a bunch of strangers I didn’t even know what the remarkable kindness of strangers was,” Dupre said. Fortunately, after raising enough money, Julia was able to adopt Pretzel through a dog service company called Cares about.
CARES . party In Kansas it was a special day that didn’t mark a happy ending, but a happy start for Julia and Pretzel. “It was so emotional and my mum and I started crying because it was so emotional and the coach put her on my feet and I leaned down and hugged her so tight,” Dupre said.
Before getting Pretzel, Julia had to rely on her Dexcom, a device in her leg that tracks her glucose levels, and sends her phone updates throughout the day. Julia said it wasn’t very accurate, but now thanks to Pretzel she doesn’t have to worry. “Back on Airbnb, I had low blood sugar and she stayed by my side for two hours while I recovered. My mom and I were sitting there kind of crying and thinking ‘Oh my God, this is going to change our lives!’ .
When diabetic alert dogs detect a change in glucose levels, they detect their owners in different ways. “She kind of stares at you honestly and sometimes she might come at you and she might bark,” Julia says. “What we do with training is if you’re high or low we’ll say ‘Check out Pretzel!'”
Julia encourages others with type 1 diabetes to own a dog like Pretzel because it has made such a difference in her life and the lives of her parents. Now that she has a pretzel she can move into college dorm and not worry about fainting or falling asleep with a low or high glucose alert. “I love the pretzel with all my heart and I’m so glad I got it,” Dupree said.