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Service dogs helping manage diabetes

After struggling with diabetes for most of his life, Brian Messe got used to the fluctuations in his blood sugar levels, never quite sure if they were dangerously low. Worried, he looked into an emerging field of service dogs.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- After struggling with diabetes for most of his life, Brian Messe got used to the fluctuations in his blood sugar levels, never quite sure if they were dangerously low. Worried, he looked into an emerging field of service dogs.

A five month old puppy named Ziggy traveled from Virginia to Syracuse on Monday to move in with Messe.

"He hiccups, he'll yawn, he'll lick your face. He'll be very defiant. He'll just stop on a dime and not move until you test yourself,” Messe said.

Dogs have been the focus of evolving research in the medical field, testing their ability to sense various illnesses. Trainer Cheri Campbell believes dogs can be trained to alert owners if their blood sugar levels are off.

“When we first started out, there were a few organizations that were doing it, now there are lots of them,” said Ziggy’s trainer Cheri Campbell. "They’re able to smell it. When you go high it’s a real sweet smell. When you go low it’s an acetone smell. They have such phenomenal noses that they are able to pick up on it pretty easily."

Campbell works for Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers, formerly known as Guardian Angel Service Dogs...the name still listed with the IRS via the tax identification number offered on their website, www.sdwr.org. No financial disclosure forms were available through the charity watchdog Guidestar.

Clients negotiate a deal with the group, according to Campbell, allowing them to pay for a dog and help with training through fundraising.

Campbell will stay in Syracuse for week. Then, promises to return in 90 days to help Messe advance the training. The process is expected to continue for two years, when a fully trained dog would eventually be able to call 911 from special phones, go get juice or fetch a test kit. Potential donors are generally asked to visit the group's website and add the name of the client they are supporting with an online donation.

Messe is giving the idea a shot at a cost of $20,000 -- money he's on the hook for if his fundraising efforts fail. The field is evolving, but he's willing to take a chance with Ziggy by his side.

"At an early age, when I would have low blood sugar, my parents would ask me how it felt, so that they could try to capture it before it got dangerously low. When I was about four years old, I told them it made me feel ziggy,” Brian said.

Today, Ziggy offers a new feeling of optimism.
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