Today I am pleased to announce a special guest post written by Dorrie Nuttall. Many of you that follow us here know her as Luke’s mom (a young T1), self trainer of Jedi, and fellow member of our Canine Hope family. She has a huge following at her page on Facebook, where she provides wonderful information about diabetes, DAD’s, and being a parent of a type 1. That page is here: Saving Luke


I’ve known Dorrie since she first came to Canine Hope and have had the thrill to watch how amazing (along with the help of the Canine Hope trainers) she has done with Jedi. As a matter of fact, she and I both met Jedi for the first time together. She has the very unique perspective of initially going with a different diabetic alert dog organization, and between intuition and some research got an uneasy feeling about them. She was absolutely right in her assessment. She lost some money, but was able to get out before it became disastrous and she wound up with a $20,000 pet or worse.
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I have been photographing this amazing team ever since. Thank you Dorrie, for writing this post, being an amazing advocate for type 1’s, type 1 parents, and of course, good, quality DAD organizations. All pictures here are from me, and all the words beyond this post are from Dorrie.


I have been wanting to say this for a while but didn’t quite know how, I finally feel like I have to say it all in one place in one post, so I apologize in advance for the mini novel. I tell you of the wonderful things Jedi does for us, and I touch on the struggles and work involved but I want to make it clear – life with a DAD is not perfect or easy for anyone and  for many in search of  a DAD it can be a very bumpy road.


When I first started the process of getting a DAD, I researched, I read, I asked questions, I interviewed organizations and I thought I was prepared. I will be the first to admit this looking back – I WAS NOT PREPARED – Do you know why? Because I wasn’t even sure what I needed to be prepared for, or what questions needed to be asked beyond the obvious ones of price and placement. 8554793518_c91823b184_b

Technically, a DAD can be bought, but to get a working DAD much more than money is required. It is not as easy as buying a dog and having it come home and work. No, that is not how this works, it takes carefully planning and training so that each dog can be successfully placed with a family. Living with, training, and raising a service dog is NOT EASY especially for people who aren’t dog trainers and are also managing T1D, and I dare you to try to tell me it is. In many ways making a DAD work is like T1D, in that you really can’t understand and you really can’t know 100% what to expect no matter how much research you do until you are actually there. Just like T1D – you are always realizing there is more to learn and there are even more things you never even realized you would have to learn about until it is staring you in the face. I could have chosen to get a 18-24 month old dog from Canine Hope, that would have put the early training in the hands of professionals, but the timing was right and our lives just fell into place and we ended up self-training Jedi from 12 weeks old. I was told from day 1 how much work it would be and they were right it was hard but I had more support from them than I could have even imagined, and that continues to this day. Many people out there are being placed with young dogs and I want you to know that essentially if you have a dog under 18 months -2 years old you are going to be doing A LOT of training yourself regardless of how much you paid or where you got your dog from (well, unless you got some special magical breed of dogs that skip puppyhood all together or are part robot 😉 ). Even those families that have 2 year old dogs placed from great organizations will continue training for the life of the dog. So if you are getting a puppy – be prepared to add amateur dog trainer to your resume and be prepared to need help and to get help, from your organization (1st and foremost it is their responsibility after all), from local trainers, from others who have had a dog successfully live with them – from those who have a proven track record of making it work.8200978565_5496dc0faa_b(1)

If you are placed with a puppy realize that it will take time for the dog to acclimate to your house and your life. If your puppy was raised with puppy raisers it may be easier for them to get used to being with a child or adult 24/7 they will be potty and crate trained and have tons of public access work already done. Some dogs raised in kennels have not had a lot of real home life experience which may present challenges, with potty training and exposure to daily experiences in the home and community. Sometimes challenges can be overcome with the proper support, training etc and sometimes they can’t be, you can’t make a dog into something they aren’t, one size does not fit all, and not every dog can be a DAD. Some dogs become fearful and can’t be service dogs, some have too much drive or not enough, and some dogs will never alert in the car, even though they alert at night, some may never alert at night but they are beautiful alerters during the day, there are no guarantees with these dogs. Not until I found Canine Hope had a single person I spoke to ever told me any of the not so pretty stuff. Canine Hope was the first group to try to tell me about reality with a DAD, they were honest about the good and the bad and that is in part why they are so successful. I am grateful for the honesty I have found from Canine Hope and the people that excel at this, from those that have and continue to struggle, and from those that have found their way.


The more I learn and the further into this journey I get, the more I realized that prior to Canine Hope a lot of the research I had done was actually more of  a sales pitch then the information I needed to make a good decision. Groups had told me their product was right for everyone and about all the wonderful things a DAD would do – I was elated and hopeful- and eager to fundraise and get closer towards this miracle dog. They told me exactly what I wanted to hear. It is 2 years later and I have a working DAD and I now know that telling me what I wanted to hear was not going to help me have a successful DAD, that secrets, half truths, inflated expectations, and promises and positive spins on not so positive things, doesn’t help anyone who is trying to learn about getting a DAD. We need less sales pitches and we need more honesty, we need to be given real expectations, and we need people to look at this as being more than a business, because it is. We need people to tell us to slow down, to be patient, to get a dog in a responsible way, in a way that will set us up for long term success, and not a race to see how quickly we can get a dog in our home. I was there, I remember the anticipation and the dislike of the term wait list or waiting in general. I hate to say it but diabetes isn’t going anywhere in the next few years so a DAD today or tomorrow, it really doesn’t matter, we will need them regardless. We need people to remember that we need help and are putting our trust in them, we need people to be responsible and ethical and we need them to care about our loved one and the dogs they place.  I have, and continue to see families struggle and get hurt in the process of getting a DAD and it breaks my heart  watching families go through even more stress -T1D is enough already.  I am not an expert at anything – not an expert pancreas, or an expert dog trainer, or an expert on diabetes or service dogs, I am just a mom trying to help my son and others that are on this road with me.20140223-IMG_1150Thank you so much Dorrie, for letting me post this on the blog!

Team Blackdogsrule


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  1. Dorrie,
    Thank you for your gift of words and thank you for sharing the challenges as well as the joys of raising and training a DAD. It is hard work and it’s important people know it’s a long term commitment that doesn’t end once you have an alerting dog. You are doing such a wonderful job raising awareness about DADs and Type 1.

  2. How did she begin the process of training herself? I was looking for info on the possibility of trying to do this. While I’m not diabetic I suffer from severe hypoglycemia and have been dangerously low. My lab has seemed quite in tune at times, but I was wondering if I could develop that further. Do you have any suggestions?

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