We participated in a local JDRF Walk for a Cure yesterday. I love any and all opportunities to get together with diabetics, parents of diabetics, and our Canine Hope family. It’s always amazing to be surrounded by people that all understand. That get it. That care. And that have a common goal. To see a cure for this awful disease. And when we have the dogs out at a diabetic event, it is fun to be an advocate. The questions from people about what they do, how they do it, can they go anywhere, does your daughter like them, and I bet you get to sleep through the night are always fun to talk about and respond to. But there is one answer to a question that I just can’t put in to words.
“Does this make managing diabetes easier?”
The truth is, these dogs make everything harder. Now, hear me out. If you’ve been following along for awhile, you know I love these dogs, as does our whole family. But they make everything more complicated. More time consuming. Less “spur of the moment” and require much more planning. Even a simple run to the grocery store requires gear for the diabetic AND the dog. And this is assuming that you already have a fully trained service dog.
And a simple fact is, these dogs aren’t for everyone. If you are new in your diagnosis, you have way more to be concerned with, to learn, to understand, and to gain experience with and you probably shouldn’t be adding a dog and all the training, maintenance, and care to that list. It could be a recipe for disaster. Add to that exponentially if you also have to work for a living, go to school, or anything else that may take you out of the home and away from an in training service dog for long periods of time.
If you have a child that doesn’t like bringing attention to themselves, is shy, or introverted, a DAD may not be the best thing for them, and may be resented. Walking through school, or the mall, or at their basketball practice with a dog draws attention. A crowd. Questions. It could lead to undue stress, resentment, and depression. The personality type must be considered.
And as for sleeping through the night, well, let me just say, my wife sets her alarm on a “good” night 3 times. And last night, Raven added 2 more wake ups to that. And that is on a typical night.
As for the amount of daily work that goes into having these dogs? Well, it’s more like adding a toddler and all the care that goes into caring for a toddler, than adding a pet dog. The amount of maintenance training and structure that needs to be built into a DAD’s day, the signals that ned to be read and understood, it is almost impossible to describe. And that assumes you already have a well trained dog. If you are self training a puppy, well, now you have an infant that requires all of the above and more.
And if this happens to be your first foray into sharing your home with a dog, this may not be right for you. There has to be a huge amount of “dog lover”, “animal advocate”, and at least a smidgeon of “crazy dog person” built into your DNA. You won’t only be sharing your home with a dog, you will be sharing your life. And at times, this will create conflicts. At work, at your child’s school, at the grocery store, and at your favorite local restaurant. You need to be able to defend yourself and your dog.
Again, I can’t even begin to describe how hard this is. And to potentially tackle this with a toddler that has type 1 seems like even more than I would want to bite off. But if you are still reading, know this. In the right home, with the right family, these dogs change lives. For the better. And they add a dimension to them that is indescribable. I know. To the right family, they are not just one more tool in the tool chest, they are family. Best Friends. Life Savers.
It’s not easy. Accept that going in. Also accept the fact that there is no way you will ever understand how hard it will be until you jump in. But if you get matched with the right dog, and you have the right attitude, it can totally be worth it.