The Saratoga Sun -

Rescue to rescuer

 

July 12, 2017

Allie, a dog that was homeless and in a shelter about a year ago, is now a Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD) in the home of the Scott family of Medicine Bow.

The family of eight realize Allie is not to be treated like their other dog, Sara, who gets attention from all members of the family. Allie is solely for their youngest, four-year-old Liam, who was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1) when he was just 14 months old. T1 is an autoimmune disease of the pancreas that prevents the organ from making insulin.

Currently, there is no cure. The lifelong condition usually requires injections of insulin several times daily. Unmanaged, T1 can have serious repercussions including death. The cause is not known, but it is suspected a virus infects the pancreas, causing it to cease working properly. In some cases, a child is born with it. Liam is the first in the family to have T1, so while it is unlikely his disease is hereditary, it is still possibly genetic.

Renee and Zach Scott, Liam's parents, say the disease is stressful on the family because it is hard to tell when something is wrong with Liam's sugar levels. The biggest indicator is his moods. If he gets grumpy, the family checks him immediately and sometimes it is his blood sugar being off. Other times, it is just Liam being a little boy.

Liam's parents realized something was wrong with their youngest when he started losing weight, was constantly fatigued and drinking excessive amounts of water.

"He would drink cup after cup, all in one sitting and that was alarming. But then one day when he was with Zach, his arms and legs started turning blue in color," said Renee. "We took him to Laramie and the first thing they did was poke his finger and his blood sugar was over 600."

Normal rates for blood sugar levels for a non-diabetic are 72 to 108-140 two hours after eating.

"Sometimes for no apparent reason, Liam's blood sugar drops to dangerous low levels and other times it rises to high levels," says Renee. "Night time makes us most nervous as he drops to low levels sometimes without us knowing right away."

Renee says Liam sometimes drops down to the 50s and has even had low blood sugar in the 40s. When he gets sick from other diseases, it effects his blood sugar the most.

Liam does have an insulin pump, which makes it easier to deal with T1, but it isn't always perfect. The continuous glucose sensor he wears sends false signals almost daily-resulting in missed highs and lows.

"So much can effect blood sugar, you wouldn't believe it," says Renee. "Exercise, heat, illness, growing, hormones, so many things."

Zach and Renee read everything they could on what could help Liam cope with T1. Liam's parents noticed dogs with other sufferers when they took their son for his medical appointments.

Hounds to heroes

Renee and Zach researched DAD training facilities and found the normal $20,000 to $25,000 cost of a dog prohibitive. Medical insurance does not consider DAD a medical tool, although the Federal government does.

Zach and Renee didn't have the money for the DAD which was discouraging. Eventually the couple got in contact with Heads Up Hounds out of Nebraska, which uses rescue dogs instead of the standard purebred Labradors.

Heads Up Hounds' motto is "Homeless to hero, diabetes has a new best friend." The cost for a DAD from Heads Up Hounds was around $10,000 and the reviews were excellent.

Jamie Cook, co-founder with her husband, Joe, says they have trained over 100 rescue dogs to be a DAD and it has been overwhelmingly successful. Sixty percent of the DADs have gone to children and 40 percent to adults.

"We get scent samples, saliva samples from the individuals and we train them to alert to rises or drops, or what happens too quickly," said Jamie.

Her interest in working with homeless dogs has been ongoing for at least 15 years. When Jaimie and her husband started training the dogs, she found them to be just as smart as purebreds and took much less time to train. Because purebred DADs start as puppies, it can take close to two years before a dog is ready. At Heads Up Hounds, it takes about three months.

"When Heads Up Hounds was started, we were looking for a way to do it faster, more affordable, and in way that fit our strengths. By starting with dogs that are between 1 and 2 years old, we skip the puppy stage and can see their adult temperament," explained Jaimie.

Each of our dogs are thoroughly tested to ensure their success in our program. Animal rescue is a passion of all of us at Heads Up Hounds and by using these dogs, we are saving them from an uncertain future and possibly death."

Although the dogs at Heads Up Hounds were much more affordable than any other place the Scott family had encountered, it was still expensive for the family of eight.

Community

involvement and ice dreams

Fundraising was the answer-and it took the family about a year to come up with the money. The town of Medicine Bow and nearby communities rallied strongly according the Scotts. A spaghetti dinner fundraiser and cans with Liam's picture in several locations were useful.

It was the opening of Liam's, an ice cream shop located near the Virginian Hotel, which helped make the community aware of the Scott family's determination in raising funds for Liam's DAD. All profits from the shop go directly Liam's T1 care.

The ice cream shop is open in the summer months and although the profits were initially raised for the purchase of Allie, present proceeds continue to go to the dog's specialized care. The idea to open the ice cream store came from Carla Denzin, an aunt of Scott and Renee, who worked all last summer for free half the hours the store was open.

The ice cream venue is popular with town folk and tourists who come through Medicine Bow and the income it produces is important to Allie's care.

"Allie has to go the vet once, twice a month to make sure she is doing well and because the training is treat based, we have to use special food. The costs are still high and with insurance not covering any of it, the ice cream place really helps," said Renee.

helping out the first night

The family raised the money and had to wait almost a year, as Allie was found, trained, acclimated to Liam's scent and brought to Wyoming.

The first night, Allie alerted the family Liam's sugar level was off. It happened after Liam was put to bed. He was asleep and Renee put the new DAD next to Liam's bed when all of sudden she saw Allie react.

"She was running around and I was like, what in the world is wrong with you. Then she came to me and poked my hand with her nose, so I checked Liam and he was 360," says Renee. Liam's connection to his pump had become unhooked while he had taken his bath. Allie had saved her charge from a serious situation her first night in her new home.

Allie is focused entirely on Liam, with his parents being the handlers. They have three scent trials a day as a part of Allie's continuing training. She also has three obedience trials every day. Eventually she will be able to understand around 65 commands. It has been a little over month since Allie has become the medical tool needed by Liam to monitor his blood sugar. She will be a part of his life for years to come.

"We rescued her and she rescues Liam," said Zach. "It's a neat little twist."

The Scott family works hard for Liam and all the children to be healthy. The parents believe life will get less demanding for them as Liam becomes more independent, however it won't be an easy existence for Liam. His parents feel sure Allie will help him tremendously in the coming years, by assisting him in taking care of his health.

Where Liam goes ... so does Allie

Allie is Liam's constant companion now, be it at school, home or play, the service dog is there.

It is against Federal Law to discriminate against those with service dogs according to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) of 1990. A service dog has access to all public places, any business that sells or prepares food, even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises. Violators of the ADA can be required to pay penalties.

If a business is not sure an animal is used for a medical tool, it may ask if it is a service animal and what task the animal performs. The business cannot require identification for the animal, ask about the person's disability, charge additional fees because of the animal nor refuse admittance, isolate, segregate or treat the person any different from other customers.

A service animal can be asked to be removed from premises if the animal is out of control and the owner can't manage its behavior or if it is a direct threat to the health and safety of others.

Liam's facebook page is http://www.facebook/pg/LiamsDiabeticLife and his father pointed out Liam stands for "Life Is A Miracle."

Zach says it was the support of the communities in Carbon County through their generous natures that allowed Allie to come to Medicine Bow and help his son.

Liam's situation with T1 diabetes got better with Allie coming into his young life, proving Jamie Cook's words, "Rescue dogs aren't throw away dogs."

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