GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (June 19, 2014) – A West Michigan family received a life-saving gift Thursday, all in a four-legged package.
He’s a service dog capable of extraordinary things. He can alert his owner when his blood sugar gets out of safe range.
Ben and Cat Dykhouse had been waiting for Max for nearly a year, a process they embarked upon in hopes of controlling Ben’s life-threatening struggle with diabetes.
“That’s our little angel, that’s Max and he’s going to do for Ben what only he can do,” Cat said.
It has been an overwhelming experience for them, meeting Max and knowing he’s there to save Ben’s life.
But Max can detect blood sugar levels outside the range of 80 to 180, usually 15 minutes before it shoots up or takes the plunge.
“If you get down below 30, in the 20s, or teens, you can go into a diabetic coma, where you lose consciousness,” Ben said. “I have gone into a diabetic coma from high blood sugars.”
“When the person’s (blood sugar is) high, they give off a very sugary smell and when they’re low, it’s more of an acidic or acetone smell, and the dogs can definitely smell (that),” said Erin Coulter of Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers.
Max can sense that blood sugar change from as far as a mile away. “He’ll paw to let me know high or low,” Ben said.
And that’s only the beginning of his capabilities. “He’ll also be able to retrieve juice boxes from the fridge, my meter, my blood tester, my cell phone, get Cat if I’m unresponsive,” Ben said. “He’ll be able to call 911: we’ll have a button.”
For the Dykhouses, Max means freedom from some of the fears associated with everyday life.
“That dog is doing for him what I can’t,” Cat said, “and that’s awesome, that’s unbelievable. So I’ve been calling him Our Little Angel.”
Max is trained by Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers in Virginia, a non-profit organization that trains dogs to aid people with a variety of disabilities. They also allow families time to raise money for their much-needed helper.
The Dykhouses just hope to let people know service dogs are available to help families like theirs.
“It could add 10 to 15 years of healthy living for me,” Ben said.
Cat hopes to make it known the dogs are there and the wonderful gift they can be.
“Welcome Home Max!” is a dinner fundraiser and meet-and-greet Tuesday, June 24, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., at Peppino’s Sports Grill at 1515 Eastport Drive in Grand Rapids. Fifteen percent of your total dinner will be donated to the campaign.