Teddy is a young golden retriever/australian shepherd cross, trained as a Diabetic Alert Dog for his kid, Carter.
Teddy Graham Zusi is a vital part of our family, the Robertson Crew. Carter, my second oldest has Type 1 diabetes. For Carter it is an autoimmune disease that attacked his pancreas at age 5, eliminating his bodies ability to make insulin. Without insulin, the body destroys itself and over a hundred years ago, juvenile diabetes was fatal. Insulin is used to help your body digest food and regulates the sugar levels in the blood. Too much sugar in the blood, over a long period of time causes harm to the body. As his parents, overnight we became nurses. Dietitians, and constant watchdogs. We wake up all hours of the night to prick his finger to check his blood sugar and Carter does this six to eight times throughout the day. Carter wears an insulin pump which gives his body micro amounts of insulin every hour and also he enters in the amount of carbohydrates for EVERYTHING he eats. His body used to react violently when his blood sugar went to low or to high. Now his neurological system says to the body "we have been here before, so it's no big deal" and Carter doesn't notice his rises and falls in blood sugar until they register dangerous levels. This is where Teddy Graham Zusi, the wonder dog comes in. Teddy has been in training with Glad Wags for over a year. He was a rescue dog with Sooner Golden Retriever who found him at the Tulsa pound. Glad Wags matches him up with Carter and they had an instant bond. We trained frequently with Teddy for six months providing Q-tip swabs that were frozen of Carter's salvia from high's and lows in his blood sugar. We would meet our fabulous trainer for classes in Tulsa for Carter and Teddy to work together, go on community outings, and sports events. Finally in February, Teddy came home with us for a trial weekend. Immediately it became clear that carter and Teddy were inseparable. Teddy watched Carter like a hawk and alerted accurately to his high blood sugars and his lows. It was hard for us to watch him go back for the end of his training and we were thrilled I have him permanently by the end of March.
Carter is like every other teenage boy, who doesn't want to stand out, stop playing a soccer game, or be different. However he lives with a chronic disease that requires that he keep his blood sugar levels in check so that he can play competitive soccer, basketball, and be a part of Bartlesville's Children's Musical Theater as well as live a long healthy life. Every time Teddy alerts Carter by pawing him or licking his arm, Carter pulls out his meter and checks his blood sugar. Teddy in NO way replaces common sense of medical supplies and care but helps us remind our growing teenager that he needs to continually be monitoring his sugars and adjusting to stay healthy and on track. The more hyper and excited our laid back dog is, the more we know something is not right with Carter. Teddy watches Carter from the sideline in soccer and follows Carter running the field. He stands in the wings of the theater and watches musicals and checks Carter on breaks off stage. Teddy has a sense of when Carter is going to crash and go low and then knows when his blood sugar is climbing sky high. All I have to say is find Carter and Teddy goes running to find his boy. He can pick out his voice in a large crowd and never let's him out of his site. Some people may worry that Teddy never gets to be a "dog". Teddy loves his "job". He loves being around kids, going to games and being with Carter. In fact Teddy Graham Zusi found himself being liked by Graham Zusi before the USA vs Portugal soccer match a few weeks ago on twitter. Teddy and our family cheered even louder that game for one of Carter's favorite soccer players.
Teddy surprised me the other night by waking me up in the middle of the night. He pawed at my arm and I immediately knew I needed to wake up Carter and check his blood sugar. Sure enough it was dropping fast and he needed to drink some juice and have a quick snack before going back to sleep to keep his levels up. The worst thing that was ever said to me when Carter was diagnosed was "someday when he is a teenager, he just might not wake up". Now I know that Teddy Graham Zusi is part of our guardian angel system alerting all of us that Carter needs help. Since having Teddy for a year now, Carter's A1C has gone from 7/9 to 5.9. We have never had such a low A1C! and it is all due to Carter's diligence and Teddy's hard work.
My name is Angie. I am a diabetic and have been for many years. Even though I am able to work – I began having issues controlling my blood sugar numbers with and keeping them stable. I have been going to Marj for Dog Training for years (10 or more) and it was a place for me to do something with my dog and got me out of my house. I had a new blue heeler puppy named Kip who was about 10 months old when my doctor told me I was going to have to go on insulin if I didn’t get my numbers down in the next 3 months. One night at training with Kip and being a person who doesn’t panic – I was shocked at how panicked I was when I was talking to Marj about the development. That night she said several things to me; the first was “it will be ok” and (after I imagine giving her a blank look) she looked me squarely and said “Kip can be your service dog.” In that conversation – she figured out why Kip was being rowdy and a rascal and doing things she wouldn’t expect him to do and as we talked, I knew everything would be ok and I would be ok and I wasn’t alone in this.
While this is not as dramatic and life-changing as others with disabilities – for me it was a mountain I didn’t think I could climb. You see barley 3 years before that day – my mom (and best friend) had died suddenly and part of the contributing factors were the diabetic / insulin that she had started taking – but instead of stabilizing her – it seemed to over-help her and her sugar levels stayed too low for too long. By the time the doctors paid attention – she was in ICU and she never fully recovered and was dead 4 months later. It was a rapid decline and I was TERRIFIED that this would happen to me.
When Marj told me Kip could be trained to alert me when my sugar went high or low – it was a light at the end of a tunnel – it was something tangible I could hang on to and work towards. Kip suddenly and effortlessly had already started working – we just didn’t know what he was telling us. Since then – he has learned so many things and can alert on so many other conditions (not just things going on with me) – he has truly changed my life. I loved him before he became my service dog but I love him and appreciate him so much more now that he can save my life (and has when I’ve ignored his alerts).
Penelope is a young Papillon/Chihuahua that was abandoned at 12 weeks old. She is a diabetic alert dog for one of our most beloved longtime students. A fiery, hardworking girl, she demonstrates that our toy dogs are just as capable as our larger dogs of working as service dogs for folks whose lifestyles fit a toy dog's special traits.
I am diabetic and my sugars seem to like to drop low during the night while I am asleep. Sometimes I wake up in time to catch it before it goes too low. But there have been times that I have woke up for other reasons and my sugars were so low I couldn't hardly function due to being weak and shaking so bad. With Penelope by my side she will be able to catch it before it gets too low. Tonight I don't know if she was pawing at me to pet her or to feed her. I did not feel like I was low but decided to test. It was not dangerous but if I didn't eat something soon I would go low. I have not had her for very long so we are still working on figuring things out. She is going to be a big help to me. No more waking up shaking and weak!! - Louis