Service dog helps diabetic college student live safely

Service dog helps diabetic college student live safely

Scott Arnold's mother was in a panic, when she realized her son ---about to go off to college and live in a dorm---would have no one to help when his health alerts sounded. Scott has an auto-immune disease, Type 1 Diabetes, and cannot sense as his blood sugar levels dropped to life-threatening critical levels.

Melody Scanlon, a nurse, spent last summer researching, and discovered diabetic alert service dogs. Finding the right one and getting him to Central New York has been a pioneering effort.

The dog's job is to be a constant companion, and smell the difference in blood sugar levels. When they drop, he alerts by pawing --until the sugar levels are brought back up by drinking something sugary, or by medication.

The dog had to be trained, and had to have a personality to match the lifestyle of its new master. Scanlon finally found a breeder/trainer in South Carolina, also the mother of a Type 1 diabetic child, and was able to make a match. An expensive match: the dog, Chase, had a $15-thousand price tag, not counting the equipment that comes with him.

Melody began fundraising. A golf tournament in Tully this past summer, a dog wash, and a grant from a Texas woman brought the total half-way. Cutting into college savings and working extra hours is helping pay the rest.

As Scott wrapped up his first semester at SUNYs College of Environmental Sciene and Forestry, he and Melody went to South Carolina for hands-on dog handling. They came home toDeRuyter with Chance on Christmas Eve, and spent the rest of the college winter break training and getting used to each other. Other family members had to adjust, too, including the pet dog, who wanted to play and couldn't understand, at first, why Chance had to stick by Scott and stick to business. Scott and Chance developed a strict schedule of exercise and 'training trips' to restaurants and other public places.

In mid-January, Scott and Chance moved into SUNY ESF's Centennial Hall. The family had alerted the ESF Office of Student Affairs, which waived the 'no pet' rule (Chase is a service dog, not a pet and wears an identifying 'uniform'). Assistant Dean Mary Tiraino says there've been no problems with the dog in public areas or in classrooms, and that individuals are also learning to be respectul of what the service animal is there to do.

Chase is part of the team, and Scott expects he'll be right there, as he graduates college and begins a career as a Departmetn of Environmental Conservation Forest Ranger

There is a facebook page: Diabetic Alert Dog Team, Chase and Scott, that tells the story. Melody also hopes it can help others, looking to use an alert dog, can use it as a reference.

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