I find that it is easy for me to forget how lucky I am and how special Judah is. Type 1 diabetes is something that no matter what I do, I will never get rid of, I will never “get better”. This is a very difficult thing to accept about my life, but over the last year I have slowly come to recognize that this is just part of me now, part of who I am. It is incredibly difficult to try to explain to people what it is like to have diabetes, what it is like to be in a true battle for life. The truth is, that is what I do. I fight for the right to live, my enemy is my own body. This is very hard to accept and it’s even harder to try to explain what state of mind it can put you in. This is especially true when the journey starts off with you being EXTREMELY ill, being that close to being gone (dead) is very shocking. I have one tool that helps me to battle with my body and my mind.
Judah is my service dog and my best tool. The technical term is “owner trained service dog” but the truth is more like “dog trained owner”. Judah taught himself to alert when my blood sugar was too high (at that time I was VERY RARELY low). After I introduced him to the low scent (saliva sample) one time he began to “real-time” alert. He taught me how to understand his alerts, when I need snacks, when I need more insulin, but what’s more, he knows when I am just tired of it all and he doesn’t let me stop fighting. There are days where I would love to go through the day without testing, taking insulin or counting carbs, but I can’t do that and Judah doesn’t let me forget. As “cool” as it is that Judah does his job sometimes I wish he would let me get away with being “bad” sometimes. I always say that sometimes I just want to pretend that I am not diabetic- but the truth is, I am. Really, if I ever “forget” it just makes it harder for me once I decide to “remember” again.
There are plenty of times when Judah has reminded me that this is who I am now, this is my life and then only way to keep it is to keep fighting. This morning was no exception. Marshall and I are in the process of moving out of our own house and into my parents house (bless my parents for offering to take us, and our brood of animals, in). This morning at 6:30 I was woken up by a dog on top of me (there were 4 dogs sleeping in our room, our three and my parent’s dog). I didn’t even pick up my head, I snuggled my face deeper into the pillow and asked, “Is that Judah?” Marshall confirmed the identity of this current smotherer and I asked, “What is it?” With that I was bumped and smacked with a paw in the back of the head. “Alright we’ll check.” He accepted this and jumped off the bed and I slid out of the room to go down to the bathroom. When I came back Marshall had placed my kit on my pillow (human hint- more subtle than the dog beating me in the head, but still, the end goal was clear) so I crawled up to my pillow which Judah was now sitting next to.
When I picked up my kit, Judah moved down to the end of the bed and watched me. I sleepily stick the test strip in my meter and prick my finger, blood to the strip, beep, wait, beep beep. “Good high Judah, good boy.” Marshall comes back into the room, “What was it?” I grin and pat Judah on the head, “217.” Marshall (also still sleepy), “Good boy Judah, good boy.” Marshall slides back into bed and I dole out a correction dose, Judah watches me inject and then decides he is going to sit and stare at me. I was sitting at the foot of the bed talking to Marshall and Judah is sitting opposite me, periodically alerting to the high sugar. At first I thought, “alright give it a rest I gave insulin there is nothing else I can do” but as he continued to sit, content to watch me and remind me that something wasn’t right I couldn’t help but feel content too. As much as I would rather have slept in and pretended I didn’t have diabetes this morning he knew that this wasn’t an option. Judah knew that for me to really have a good day, I would need to have a good glucose, I would need to not beat myself up about why and how and just deal with it.
Judah doesn’t care if I am not in the mood, too tired, too busy, angry, sad, excited, anxious, sick, healthy, or just plain exhausted. He doesn’t care if I think he is wrong or even if we aren’t together, he knows that it is important for him to do his job. He seems to know that my life depends on him. How do you show gratitude to a dog for keeping you alive? How do you show him that he is the difference between living life and struggling to live? Well for Judah it seems, his reward is that I am still here and that he gets to continue doing his job, it’s true they don’t ask for much in return do they?! I believe that all dogs are special, that they all have something to give and that they all deserve the absolute best we can give them. Service dogs are no exception, they give us our lives back, keep us getting up each morning and never ask for anything except the love of the pack. Judah took on this job himself, taught me be healthy himself, taught me how to keep my head up himself, and wants nothing more than to share it all with me.
I guess it’s easy to forget everything he does for me everyday because no one taught him how- no one asked him to do that. Sometimes it takes slowing down and looking into his eyes for me to remember that he just wants to make sure that I am going to be here. It’s easy to take him for granted, it’s easy to forget and he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care if he gets in trouble for breaking a down/stay ten times as long as he finally gets to alert me when something is wrong. For Judah it’s worth ten corrections and scoldings to make one good alert, sure you can train this and someday when Judah retires I will train it, but there is NOTHING like true love, true devotion and the instinct to keep the pack safe and together. He takes my breath away everyday. Judah is love and trust at its absolute finest. It’s nice to be reminded how special the relationship we have really is, I think he’s earned a good run today (that is Judah’s ultimate reward, he is a husky after all!).