Stuart Blundell jokes that people know and like his service dog Balta better than he does both in the community and at the 100 Mile District Hospital. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Stuart Blundell jokes that people know and like his service dog Balta better than he does both in the community and at the 100 Mile District Hospital. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Service dogs provide new lease on life

Stuart Blundell’s life has drastically improved since he got his service dog Balta four years ago.

Stuart Blundell’s life has drastically improved since he got his service dog Balta four years ago.

Blundell, who has Type 1 diabetes, relies on Balta to help monitor his blood sugar levels to ensure they stay between 4.0 and 8.0. A friendly purebred lab, Balta was specially trained to recognize Blundell’s scent – by sniffing a gauze that had been in his mouth when his blood sugar levels fell 3.5. When his blood sugars drop that low now, she reminds him to eat by tapping him.

In the past, Blundell would have to take an ambulance to the hospital at least twice a year after his blood sugar became so low and he got shaky, sweaty and delirious.

“She has always been really good at the scents. Pretty much the dog just looks to see if your scent is normal and if it’s not, she gets excited. She’ll paw me or jump on me,” Blundell said. “I have never gone low since I’ve had this dog. She’ll wake me up in the middle of the night.

“We’re like a married couple now, I don’t have to tell her anything. She looks at me, I look at her, and we know what the other one is going through.”

Blundell decided to get a trained diabetic service dog after watching a TV special on them with his wife. The only place in Canada to get them is through the Dog Guides of Canada in Oakville, Ont., where it can cost the organization upwards of $25,000 to $35,000 to get them trained. They then donate the dogs to people in need, free of charge, like they did with Blundell.

Over the past two years, he has bonded with Balta. The partnership, along with new technology, has made it a lot easier being a diabetic, Blundell said. But while there is now smartphone technology that can read blood sugar levels, Blundell prefers getting his reminders from Balta.

He already has an insulin pump and Blundell didn’t want to have to juggle another device, which is basically a sticker with a censor stuck to his arm. Although he had some issues early on taking Balta into local stores, he said the town has come to accept the two of them.

“The dog is as accurate as that device. It just got to a point where it caught up to the dog,” he said.

Balta and Blundell go everywhere together, even to his job as a medical lab assistant at the 100 Mile District General Hospital. She’s a big help. The other day, a little girl needed bloodwork and was terrified of needles. One look at Balta, though, helped calm her down.

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“I don’t know how I used to do it. I rely on her so much, if that dog thinks something is up she’s probably right,” Blundell said.

He added that on the job, when wearing her halter, leash and collar, Balta is super calm and quiet. Off the job, though, she’s hyperactive and affectionate and can be a handful, Blundell said.

108 Mile Lions’ Ingrid Meyer who organizes an annual Walk for Dog Guide, said that 100 Mile House has many local people who could benefit from having a guide dog whether they are visually impaired, diabetic or depressed.

In 2019, Meyer noted they raised $3,000 and she’s hopeful the various dog-walking groups and pet-based businesses in 100 Mile will step up and take part.

The walk was cancelled last year, due to COVID-19, but is now online, billed as the Pet Valu Virtual Walk for Dog Guides. Participants across Canada can sign up throughout the month of May to pledge to walk and raise money for the event. So far this month, Canadians have raised $301,544 and walked a total of 36,882 kilometres. The goal this year is $1.3 million.

Whenever anyone has a positive experience with Balta, Blundell encourages them to donate to the organization, so more dogs can be trained and donated to those in need.

“The way that these dogs impact a life is crazy, so it’s a great way to spend a little money.”

To sign up or donate to the cause, check out https://www.walkfordogguides.com/



patrick.davies@100milefreepress.net

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