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Dog detects owner's low blood sugar

Union Leader Correspondent

October 09. 2017 10:13PM

“Mylow” a yellow Labrador retriever is specially trained to detect when her owner Mandy Grier's blood sugar is dropping and to alert her. (Bea Lewis/Union Leader Correspondent)

Mandy Grier has a special bond with her yellow Labrador retriever — the dog is trained to alert Grier, an insulin-dependent diabetic, that her blood sugar is beginning to dip.

“She’s been a godsend,” said Grier of her canine companion of nearly three years. “She has definitely made it easier on me.”

Appropriately named “Mylow,” the dog is trained to alert Grier when her blood sugar drops to 80.

“The first time she did it at home it was pretty amazing,” said Grier, who lives in Meredith. Through her keen sense of smell, Mylow is able to detect that Grier’s glucose level is dropping.

The dog raises her tail, locks up like a statue and stares directly at Grier until she tests her blood sugar.

Grier, diabetic since the age of 6, credits the dog with saving her life in June.

While she was asleep, she said, her blood sugar dropped so precipitously that she became unconscious before Mylow could alert her. Unable to awaken Grier, the dog raced to the other side of the bed and began frantically pawing at Grier’s husband’s Doug’s neck.

“When he touched me, I was cold. He called 911 and began CPR,” Grier said of her husband, a short-haul trucker.

Grier recalled how at an Octoberfest party at her father’s house, Mylow began to alert Grier that her blood sugar was dropping. Thinking that the dog was unsettled by the crowd of some 50 people, Grier said, she told the dog it was alright. But Mylow remained vigilant.

“I got up and tested and then turned the machine around so people could see it. It read 79. Everyone was amazed that with so many people in the house, she was still able to scent that my blood sugar was low,” Grier said.

Grier said she learned of the existence of low-sugar detection dogs on a television show. She began searching the internet for more information and discovered that a dog can cost as much as $25,000.

Her sisters, Annie Grier and Kelly McAllister, launched a GoFundMe page, ultimately raising $15,500.

“You can say what you want about social media, but in this case, it was unbelievable. None of us are on Facebook, but the way it took off was just amazing,” Mandy Grier said.

After discovering that then 7-month-old Mylow was being trained in Virginia Beach, Va., Grier made arrangements to travel down to meet her. To allow the dog to lock on to her scent, the trainer had Grier put gauze pads in her mouth and soak them with saliva. The gauze squares were then placed inside small plastic canisters that had holes drilled through them.

When Mylow focused on a canister holding Grier’s scent, the behavior was immediately rewarded with a clicker and then reinforced with a food treat.

Grier was thrilled with Mylow’s progress, but also distressed to learn that as a “working dog,” she had never experienced the joy of chasing a tennis ball or going for a swim.

Despite being advised not to let Mylow get sidetracked by such doggie delights, Grier concedes that when the family heads to their camp, the Labrador gets to do what generations of her relatives have been bred to do — swimming and retrieving.

“She has never missed,” Grier said of the dog’s ability to warn her that she is getting hypoglycemic. She says Mylow has alerted her on 15 different occasions.

“It’s a telltale stare, but I know it immediately,” Grier said.

Health Meredith

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