Hailey was sitting in class one day, watching a presentation. What she didn’t know was that she was about to experience a hypoglycemic episode. Coincidentally, the woman who was talking at the front of the class had brought her Diabetic Alert Dog Guide with her; during the presentation the dog alerted Hailey to her diabetic low. Hailey was amazed and couldn’t wait to tell her parents what had happened. After hearing Hailey’s story, her family promptly applied for a Dog Guide from Lions Foundation of Canada.
What makes type 1 diabetes with hypoglycemic unawareness so dangerous is that Hailey’s body does not show any physical signs that her blood sugar is changing – or dropping. On a typical day,
Hailey needs to check her insulin levels 10 to 12 times. “It’s a helpless feeling,” Hailey says, “but it’s all I’ve ever known.” Hailey has learned how to look after herself over the years. She has taken on more responsibility than others her age.
“It really prevented Hailey from doing normal things that 12 year olds want to do, like going to sleepovers with friends,” says her mother, Christine. “Managing Hailey’s condition has been a full-time job for the whole family.”
Now with Hailey’s Dog Guide, the family is relieved knowing Quatchi is there to watch over her. Lions Foundation of Canada is a national charitable foundation, created by Lions Clubs across Canada, that matches clients like Hailey with specially trained Dog Guides. Its mission is to assist Canadians with a medical or physical disability by providing them Dog Guides at no cost. Since 1983, the Foundation has placed more than 2,500 Dog Guides with handlers across the country.
Each of these Dog Guides will cost approximately $25,000 to raise, train and place with a Canadian in need; yet these dogs are provided at no cost to qualified applicants. Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides does not receive any government funding and relies on the support of fundraising events and donations from corporations, individuals, service clubs, estates and foundations.
Its dog guide programs include:
Canine Vision Dog Guides
For people who are blind or visually impaired
Hearing Ear Dog Guides
For people who are deaf or hard of hearing
Service Dog Guides
For people with a physical disability
Seizure Response Dog Guides
For people who have epilepsy
Autism Assistance Dog Guides
For children (aged three to 12) on the autism spectrum
Diabetic Alert Dog Guides
For people who have type 1 diabetes with hypoglycemic unawareness
The Diabetic Alert program was launched in 2013 and was the first internationally accredited program of its kind in Canada.
When Hailey’s blood sugar drops, Quatchi alerts her by jumping on her lap and nudging her arm. Quatchi barks for help when needed and is even trained to fetch objects like an insulin kit, juice boxes or the phone. Diabetic Alert Dog Guides are also trained to activate an alert system for handlers in an emergency.
“It’s nice knowing I can have him with me at all times,” says Hailey. “I have someone there to help me when I need it.” Thanks to Lions Foundation of Canada – and Dog Guides like Quatchi – more and more Canadians are able to enjoy an increased sense of safety, mobility and independence.
Sarah Miller is communications manager with the Lions Foundation of Canada/Dog Guides Canada. Angela Thibert is a communications volunteer at Dog Guides Canada. To learn more about the organization or to make a donation, visit www.dogguides.com.