Keeping up with one’s blood sugar is a 24-hour task. Now Graham has a new furry partner to help keep track.
STANTON - September is national service dog awareness month, and a Martin County 10-year-old has found a new companion in his diabetic alert dog.
Graham Butler has Type 1 diabetes. His parents, David and Mandy, and little brother Evan, 7, were happy to welcome a new member to the family this weekend.
"She will help me keep up with my numbers," said Graham. “And she will be able to tell me when I’m high or low before my Dexcom.”
He received a life changing diagnosis when he was seven.
"I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2013, ever since then I’ve had to test my blood and keep up with how much I eat. I can go low or high and Capri will help alert me when I do.”
Lily Grace Service Dogs in Sandpoint, Idaho, trained the Golden Doodle for seven months. Then Lily Grace flew to Midland to deliver the dog. She spent two days training Graham, teaching him how to give commands and do daily scent exercises with the dog.
She and her husband Ken have been training all types of service dogs since 1987.
She was a nurse and he was a Computer Engineer, but both retired from their jobs to take on training full time.
“I started training dogs as recreation,” said Lily. “I’m a very competitive person and I love to push myself to get a perfect 200 (most possible points in AKC Obidence) and compete in HRC (Hunting Retriever Club) for titles on my dogs.”
Lily takes time to learn her dogs and uses a questionnaire to make a perfect pair between her puppies and the kids.
“I chose to match Graham and Capri because she is a tom boy,” said Lily. “She would love to keep up with an active boy, she will try anything and never give up, she is not into being fussed over, she’s just as happy to go play ball or run alongside a scooter.”
Capri has been training with Graham’s scent for five months. She knows his scent and is trained to alert him when his sugar levels get low or high.
"She jumps on me when she senses that I’m high or low,” said Graham.
Eventually, she will just sit by his side and place a paw on him.
When it came to naming his new companion, Graham had several suggestions but eventually went with Capri.
“I chose Capri because it sounded like Capri Sun which is the juice I get when my blood sugar is too low.”
David first talked with Lily Grace last November, shortly after several community members broached the idea of Graham getting a diabetic alert dog.
Once Lily had a puppy selected for Graham the rush was on to secure the funds needed to purchase and train the dog. The community rallied behind the Butler family, helping to raise more than $30,000.
“The support from our community and family is overwhelming and I will never be able to express how thankful I truly am,” said Mandy. “Just not to have to be watching Graham every second. Our minds can maybe actually not be on Type 1 diabetes for 10 minutes and let the dog kind of do her job. It's going to be really nice.”
Capri will be joining Graham at Stanton Elementary School as the family chose to do in-person learning.
"Graham will have to know how to be in control of the situation,” said David. “He will have to know what to do and know how to explain to his teachers and friends how to act appropriately.
There are many tools to use in dealing with diabetes, and the Diabetic Alert Dog is one more tool to add to the toolbox used to help families deal with their child who has diabetes.
With the use of a Diabetic Alert Dog the child can gain the independence they need as they grow up and mature and the parents are not afraid to allow them to do so.