Written by Khatija Minty – Organiser
Diabetes affects thousands of elderly South Africans, but despite the dangers posed by this illness, many struggle to access the care they need. The Diabetic Assist Dog Organisation South Africa is a non-profit organisation which, in co-operation with Universal Islamic and Cultural Fund (UICF), is aimed at assisting the elderly in obtaining diabetic medical assist dogs, which will help to enhance their quality of life.
Helping the elderly
Diabetic Assist Dog Organisation South Africa is particularly concerned about our senior citizens who are the most vulnerable and who are dependent on our love and care. It’s the elderly who seem the most prone to neglecting their health and forgetting to test their blood sugar levels daily and sometimes forgetting to take their medication entirely.
Hypoglycaemia is very dangerous in diabetics and can even be fatal if not treated in time. If blood sugar drops too low, sufferers can experience seizures or slip into a coma. Ordinarily, hypoglycaemia causes symptoms like sweating, shaking, heart palpitations, anxiety, and confusion, prompting the person to take action (e.g. eating glucose sweets). However, many diabetics suffer from Hypoglycaemia Unawareness, a condition in which there are no symptoms alerting them to the blood sugar drop, which means they won’t know that they need to do something to raise their blood sugar levels. Likewise, during sleep, a diabetic won’t notice these symptoms either.
That’s where our furry four-legged friends come in.
Super dogs to the rescue
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell and have shown themselves to be excellent at identifying blood sugar fluctuations. A diabetic alert dog is a very special service/assistance dog trained to detect high or low levels of blood sugar in people who have diabetes.
These dogs then alert their owner or their owner’s helper to these dangerous changes in their blood glucose levels so that they can administer the needed treatment.
This is a particularly important service rendered by the trained dog, especially when their owner is asleep or if they don’t have any warning symptoms and don’t realise that there are changes in their blood sugar levels. The trained diabetic service dog can raise the alarm before their owner goes into a coma, experiences a seizure, or has any other serious symptom as a result of the hypo- or hyperglycaemia. And, of course, having a furry friend sharing their unconditional love makes a big difference too.
A small dog with a big job
South African Ambassador Abdul Minty and his diabetic assist dog, Benjie, are the perfect example of a successful partnership.
Benjie is a Dapple Dachshund and Ambassador Minty chose the Dachshund breed as they’re known to be close to their owners (a little shadow), very obedient, easy to train and travel with. Any dog can be a diabetic assist dog, including mixed breeds, but because they need to sleep in the same room as their owner – and some owners would prefer that the dog sleep on the bed – smaller dogs are generally preferred.
Benjie started his basic obedience training with the BraveHeart Bio-Dog Academy just outside Pretoria when he was an eight-month-old puppy. After his initial basic training, he received his diabetic service training with the Diabetic Assist Dog Organisation SA. This was intensive one-on-one training, and he was a star student.
Ambassador Minty says he relies on Benjie as his dependable, loyal, and genius partner who’s sensitive to his needs. Benjie has become more than just an alert dog – he’s a companion and real member of the Minty family. Life would be empty without his life-saving service dog.
About Diabetic Assist Dog Organisation SA
Although Diabetic Assist Dog Organisation SA focuses on diabetes, the organisation also assists other worthy causes, such as helping children with brain cancer.