Some of the people who came out to the Walk for Dog Guides at the South Cariboo Visitor Centre on May 27. Brendan Kyle Jure photo.

Local looking to get service dog through Lions

Annual walk raises awareness and money

Several people attended the Walk for Dog Guides, an effort to raise money for the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, at the South Cariboo Visitor Centre.

“It’s really cool. We’ve supported [the walk] as long as we knew about it. I think that’s how we learned about the dog was through this.” said Stu Blundell, a type-1 diabetic in the process of receiving an alert dog, of the community’ support.

The walk was organized by the 108 Lion’s Club and PetValu.

His wife, Kori was watching a show on TV about alert dogs for autism. Wondering if there was anything for diabetics, she started researching online and going through the Lion’s Foundation to get a dog for her husband.

A dog in service costs $25,000 to breed, train and eventually place, though the family or person who gets the dog pay no additional fees nor do they outright own the dog.

The money raised on the walk will not directly go to the Blundell’s efforts in getting a dog but will be sent to the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides’ headquarters in Oakville, Ont. Some of the funds will benefit Blundell.

The hospital lab worker was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes when he was 16 years old.

“Over the course of that I’ve had a lot of lows because when your blood sugar is at a normal range, what they call it, you do go low and I’m a guy so I guess I go more low than most, but I’ve gone low a lot over these years,” the former carpenter said. “I’ve done a whole change where I’m on an insulin pump now and I work at the hospital in the lab where it isn’t as active so you don’t go as low as much.”

Blundell and his family, live in the middle of nowhere though, where it takes emergency responders at least 30 minutes to respond, which is one of the biggest reasons for an alert dog.

Alert dogs trained specifically for diabetics can detect when a hypoglycemic episode is coming on before a human can and will notify them so the diabetic can sort it out.

Hypoglycemic episodes start with symptoms that include fatigue, anxiety, irritability, pale skin, shakiness and others. If left unchecked, it can result in confusion, abnormal behaviour, visual disturbances, seizures and a loss of consciousness.

“I’ve had too many [episodes] now where it’s just harder to come back from them so having the alert dog, he will alert me before I get to that point. So having the dog would be the best and he’d be with me all the time,” he said.

The process of getting a dog is very long and in-depth though. Blundell and Kori applied a year and a bit ago and will only have their first interview and home visit with the foundation on June 16.

Blundell had to get personal references, a doctor’s note and approval from his workplace as part of the application.

Kori said having an alert dog would give diabetics a lot more freedom and ease the stress.

Sometimes it takes five to eight years for an applicant to get a dog due to the breeding and training, as it’s being specifically trained to the person’s needs.

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