MOUNT VERNON — After their son, Ollie, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in February, the Clagg family decided to pursue a canine helper.
The family, unsure of what to do, searched for options in hopes of finding stability for their son. As an active two year old, Ollie is unable to tell his parents, Ashley and Asa, what he needs or how he is feeling when it comes to his blood sugar levels. Ashley and Asa often have a difficult time when it comes to checking Ollie’s levels or even getting him to eat when his levels are dangerously low.
Ashley is a nurse at Knox Community Hospital working in labor and delivery. Asa is a stay-at-home dad since last year. Along with Ollie, they have two young daughters, Addison, 5, and Ava, 4.
They decided to see if a diabetic alert dog was right for their situation.
“I thought since there were alert dogs for others situations, why wouldn’t there be one for diabetes?” Ashley said as she told about how she got on Google to search.
She came upon Diabetic Alert Dogs of America, a company that trains and provides alert dogs. After looking at reviews and doing a background check on the company, the family decided to partner with Diabetic Alert Dogs of America to get Ollie his own alert dog.
Asa said part of the reason they are getting the alert dog is because Ollie is too young to receive a continuous glucose pump.
“The dog would provide a bit of extra sense of security,” he said.
Diabetic Alert Dogs of America is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada, but provides alert dogs to all 50 states and Canada. The company will train the service dog, deliver the service dog at the end of his training to the family, and provides a lifetime of training guarantee.
According to the Diabetic Alert Dogs of America website, dogs typically start their training about the age of six months and go through six to eight months of training until they are completely trained. These dogs are trained to alert their handlers of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, low or high blood sugar levels, before they reach dangerous levels. This allows the parents to take the steps necessary to get back to normal levels.
The dogs are trained to detect the chemical release that is caused from the changing blood sugar levels that is not detectable to humans. This provides stability, safety, and support to the handler and their family.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, diabetic alert dogs are considered a service dog and are allowed to accompany their handlers wherever they go.
But the cost for such a service dog isn’t cheap. Prices can range anywhere from $7,000 to $25,000. For the Clagg family, their alert dog will cost $15,000.
The Thrall Masonic Lodge, post number 170, of Fredericktown, where Asa is a member, found out about their situation and donated $500. The lodge then requested assistance from the Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons of Ohio. The request went through the District Deputy Grand Master, Larry Cullison, and with the help of several agencies within the Grand Lodge spectrum and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Ohio Charities (Asa is an army veteran) they were able to donate $9,600 to the family, the VFW Charities contributing $5,000 of that total. Cullison said that kudos must be given to all parties involved and their efforts in donating to the Clagg family.
Ashley said that they were aware that Cullison was reaching out for support but nothing was set in stone.
“About a month ago, in early May, they presented us with the check,” Ashley said.
With the help of a GoFundMe page, they have been able to raise most of the rest of the money they need in order to secure the diabetic alert dog. There is still a long wait to go. As of last week, the family was number 12 on the waiting list. Once they reach the top few spots, they will be matched with a potential alert dog and he will begin the six to eight month training process.
“Diabetes is a lifelong disease that we’re going to have to learn to deal with,” Ashley said.