North Okanagan mom cherishes life-saving alert dog

Carrie Lemay, single mom and a diabetic, welcomed Freckles, an alert guide dog, into her life

Carrie Lemay, single mom and a diabetic, welcomed Freckles, an alert guide dog, into her life. (Supplied)

Vernon’s Carrie Lemay loves her all-black Freckles.

That would be Freckles, Lemay’s diabetic alert dog, a black Labrador retriever, that the single mom received Nov. 14, 2018, World Diabetes Day.

Before the four-legged saviour arrived, Lemay used to rely on her young daughter, Charleigh, to check on her during the night in case she experienced any blood sugar lows while sleeping. Since getting Freckles, the difference has been life-altering and life saving.

“There have been many times Freckles has saved my life,” Lemay said. “The most recent was last month after our morning walk. Charleigh was reading in her room and I was in my room putting clothes away when Freckles alerted me to a low blood sugar level. It was 5.6 so I ignored her and continued on doing laundry. A few minutes later, I passed out.

“Realizing I wasn’t responsive, Freckles went into my daughter’s room and brought her to me. She fetched my glucometer kit for my daughter to test my blood sugar which was 1.8 and dropping. Thanks to Freckles and my daughter, an ambulance got there on time.”

READ MORE: UBCO researcher creates diabetes diet

Each Nov. 14 is World Diabetes Day, created by the World Health Organization in response to the escalating health threat posed by diabetes.

A recent study from Diabetes Canada, 2019 Diabetes Canada Cost Model, found rates of diabetes and pre-diabetes are continuing to rise. To assist Canadians living with diabetes with hypoglycemia unawareness, Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides began training Diabetic Alert Dog Guides in 2013.

“Diabetic Alert Dog Guides are trained to detect sudden drops in their handler’s blood sugar through scent and alert them. They can also fetch a glucometer kit, go get help within the home or activate an alert system if needed,” said Julie Gaboury, head instructor of the Diabetic Alert program. “They increase their handler’s safety and can prevent loss of consciousness and subsequent life-threatening effects such as slipping into diabetic comas.”

While each Dog Guide costs an average of $25,000, they are provided free of charge to qualifying Canadians. The foundation receives no government funding and relies solely on donations from individuals, corporations, and fundraising activities.

According to the 2019 Diabetes Canada Cost Model, it is estimated that in the province of British Columbia, 1,527,000 people are living with diabetes or prediabetes in 2019.

For more information on the Diabetic Alert program and Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, please visit dogguides.com.


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