Reb Boyd, 17, of South Carolina, is assisted by 7-month-old Lilly, a Labrador retriever being trained by Dee Bogetti as a diabetic-alert dog. Photo courtesy Dee Bogetti
Some dogs are more than just "man's best friend" — they can save lives. They enable blind people to walk safely in public, they help search-and-rescue squads locate targets more accurately and they warn parents of epileptic children about imminent seizures. Glen Allen-based canine consultant Dee Bogetti is training dogs to make use of their keen olfactory sense for another important purpose: detecting a diabetic person's rising or dropping glucose levels to prevent dangerous complications.
"For a diabetic-alert dog, simple recognition ultimately becomes a trained alert," Bogetti says. These pooches identify the acetone scent of the glucose lows and sweet smell of the highs and respond with a non-intrusive alert, such as giving a nose nudge.
Bogetti became involved in training diabetic-alert dogs last summer and is now helping canines around the country become certified. Her first Richmond-area client is preparing to select a puppy for training that will last 12 to 18 months. This ensures that the animals are perfectly obedient and ready to behave appropriately in any public setting.
The service costs a minimum of $10,000 for a diabetic-alert dog trained as a puppy, though Bogetti also works with families who want to train older dogs. Abi Thornton, a 16-year-old Mississippi resident who is not a client, said during Bogetti's Bark Radio Web program that her diabetic-alert dog, Mr. Darcy, has definitely improved her quality of life. "He keeps my blood sugar in such a tight range that I won't have these health problems that diabetics have down the road."