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East Texas nonprofit trains service dogs for people with diabetes and autism

Ten families from California to New York will gather later this month at Lake Sam Rayburn in Brookeland, Texas, to meet their newest family members. Ten British Labradors have finished a year of training to become certified diabetic alert dogs. They alert Type 1 diabetics when their blood sugar level is in a dangerous range. If not properly monitored, a diabetic can quickly become ill to the point of critical condition.

Cindy Terrell, executive administrator of the Jasper, Texas-based, Drey's Alert Dogs, said the nonprofit has trained dozens of service dogs since it was launched two-and-a-half years ago. Terrell said the dogs can smell a change in blood sugar as its coming on, like in this medical scenario.

“The dog came up and pawed me. I checked my blood sugar and it was 95. That’s a perfect reading. I’m like really? I just had to check my blood sugar. It's kind of frustrating," Terrell said. "But, in 10 minutes, I start feeling weary. I check my blood sugar and, boom, now I’m 40. The dog pawed me because he could smell the change taking place, and he let me know before the Glucometer could pick it up.”

These labs begin their training at one day old, before their eyes open. At about 10 weeks, the dogs start serious training six days a week. Terrell said the dogs cost about $15,000 and her agency works with each family on fundraising  to afford a service companion. She said it’s rewarding to see families improve their quality of life, especially the children who are trying to control a disease.

“They (diabetic children) can’t sleep at night because they’re scared that they won’t wake up the next morning. The mommas  have bags under their eyes because they haven’t slept for three days because their babies kept running low, and they were scared that they would lose them," Terrell said, ticking off the issues in battling the endocrine disorder. "Once you see that you have a way to fix that or help them prevent that, your heart is so overloaded with joy that you’re getting to help them that it’s a huge, huge thing to be able to see those dogs go.”

The public is invited to see the service dogs in action on July 27 at Lake Sam Rayburn Campgrounds from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Drey's Alert Dogs  also trains labs for assisting with autism and full-service mobility. Terrell said it’s one of a handful of such organizations nationwide.