Do you ever wonder if a dog knows what Christmas is?
I can see the changes around the house, so I know something is happening. The furniture gets moved and something resembling a tree suddenly grows in the corner of the living room. It doesn’t smell like a tree, and it gets glittery balls and small dangling things hung on its branches. Twinkling lights go all around it and Christy leaves them on all night long.
New smells fill the house. Christy is in the kitchen mixing more smells into a giant bowl and rolling stuff out on the tabletop. Then she puts the things she makes on a flat metal tray in the silver hot thing in the center of the room. Before I know it, she’s pulling it out again and I keep my distance as I smell what I recognize to be food of some sort.
“Aiden. These cookies are for people.”
Did she just say the “C” word?
I’m used to wearing my vest, but sometimes Christy puts weird outfits on me and talks to me in a high-pitched squeaky voice, telling me how cute I look. I pose for her to take pictures for her Christmas cards but can’t wait to get back to wearing nothing but my own doggie fur.
I hear people saying “Merry Christmas” and the music at church has more jingles to it.
One morning I wake up and everyone is still in their pajamas as I watch the people tear at paper and find things inside boxes and bags. I get a couple of new squeaky toys and a special treat.
I use all my senses to enjoy what humans call Christmas. I also know deep inside my doggie heart, it’s about the Savior of the world, my Creator, who on His birthday, hung out with animals lying in a pile of hay.
I’m proud to be a diabetic alert dog for them, serving Christy. NICST gave me a second chance at serving after being career-changed from Guide Dogs for the Blind.
It’s through them I met Kermit. Kermit was Dr. Steve Wolf’s diabetic alert dog for ten years.
Kermit loved to play tug. He loved snuggling in the car loaded with dogs and people heading to events together with our handlers.
Kermit is the first diabetic alert dog Christy met and she was highly impressed. Because Kermit worked for a doctor, he had the opportunity to help more than just his handler. Thousands of people were touched by his life.
Kermit served Dr. Steve up to the last minute of Kermit’s life here on earth, alerting just before he passed.
I don’t understand what passing means, I just know I won’t get to play with Kermit again until I see him in Heaven. I had to comfort Christy when she cried at the news.
I only have a short time on this earth, and I want to make the best of it by enjoying every slurp, snuggle and alert I give Christy.
On August 9, 2021, Christy and I celebrated the fourth anniversary of our GOTCHA day.
What’s gotcha day? I’m glad you asked.
Gotcha day is the day every client at Dogs for Diabetics longs for. It’s the day every client dreams of, and works hard to achieve.
There is a process to go through in order to arrive at gotcha day. First, one must apply for a diabetic alert dog.
Once accepted into the program, they receive extensive training to prepare for living with a service dog. While in training, they attend once-a-month meetings (which used to be pot-lucks at the training center, but COVID has stopped in-person meetings – we Zoom now until further notice).
I get to meet other client teams at these meetings and those on the waiting list where clients become members of the Dogs for Diabetics family. A great community for diabetic connections and lifelong friendships.
But there is a waiting list once all requirements are met. Some clients wait a long time because D4D trainers want to match dogs with client lifestyles and personalities.
Christy waited nine months then…GOTCHA! I came running into her arms and we became a team.
Gotcha day is when a dog is placed with a client. It’s one of the happiest days of my life.
Yes, that’s me, dressed as Elvis. Before Mom wrote The Rubber Band Stretches: Rocky’s Story (Rocky impersonates Elvis in this book), she dressed me as Elvis for Dogs for Diabetics annual fundraiser, which had a Las Vegas theme. Her costume was the iconic Las Vegas welcome sign. Everyone wanted picture with the sign, so she shared it as a prop.
Guess what? We won first prize in the costume contest.
The sign was made with lots of glitter. If you know anything about glitter, it gets everywhere and there was no doubt where we had been that day.
Every once in a while, Christy will dress me up in something. I’ve been a pumpkin for Halloween. Together, we once were Batman and Robin (I was Batman). It’s not my favorite thing, wearing a crazy costume.
My favorite thing to wear is my service dog vest. At home, it may seem like I’m off duty because I’m not in my vest. I am always on duty, sniffing out blood sugars, alerting Mom when she’s low, saving her life.
Nothing can stop me from doing my job. I even do it while impersonating Elvis, so Viva Dog Vegas!
People always tell me how handsome I am. They comment on my brindle coat and think I’m a crossbreed. I am one hundred percent black lab with a little bling! Strangers see me before they notice I’m attached to my handler.
I hear them say, “Hello, beautiful,” to which Christy responds, “Thank you.”
I may be good looking, but my nose is my greatest asset. I wish I could explain to you how it works, but being a dog, I can’t speak human. Christy thought you might like this Ted Talk on how a dog’s nose works.
I smell a lot of things, millions to be exact. But, the most important scent I detect is when Christy’s blood sugar drops. She can’t feel it happening. When it does, I spring into action by grabbing the bar that hangs from my collar.
When she sees me holding it in my mouth, she knows to immediately test her blood sugar. I get a JACKPOT reward for doing my job. Jackpot rewards include high value treats saved for that purpose only. So far, duck jerky is my favorite.
I promise to tell you one day how I learned this super power. But until then, just call me by my superhero name.
You might be wondering how do I know my mom’s blood sugar is dropping?
I’ve been raised since birth to be a working dog. I lived in a great puppy raiser home, learning basic good behavior skills until I was almost two years old. Then I went to Guide Dogs for the Blind where I was trained to learn skills necessary to assist a visually impaired person.
I have one problem that stopped me from placement: I like to slurp everything and when I do, my mouth makes a chomping sound.
I may have been intelligent enough to work for a blind person, but being too friendly was a distraction. A service dog must stay 100% focused on the handler, but I loved greeting people.
Please note I DID NOT FAIL…I was “career changed” and sent to Dogs for Diabetics (D4D) to specialize in scent training. A dog’s nose can smell millions more scents in one sniff than a human can. When Christy’s blood sugar drops, I can SMELL it long before it becomes dangerous and alert her to the problem.
Since she can’t feel the side effects of low blood sugars anymore, we were placed together. We were meant to be a team as she loves my happy slurping and chomping. In fact, one of my nick-names is chomper.
I’ll tell you more in future posts, but for now, I must go…do my business. Slurp you next time!