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People Count on Him for Their Lives

Chris and Dolly.jpeg

Chris was diagnosed with diabetes in 2014. For the first several years, he was able to control it through diet and exercise, but in about 2020, the disease got much worse. His body changed and he couldn’t manage what was happening to him. He started taking insulin because of these issues but noticed even then that when his glucose levels were lower, he would feel weak and generally ineffective. It might happen at home or at work; these feelings were unpredictable.

Chris is a 54-year-old career firefighter and paramedic, a very physical job based on hair-trigger decision-making, and many people count on him when he is on duty. To have his body stop functioning simply because he had eaten something that would raise or lower his blood sugar, or to suffer from chronic sleeplessness, might mean life or death to those he had been trained to save.

He and his wife were volunteer puppy raisers for Custom Canines, and when we found out that he was suffering from the increased debilitating effects of diabetes, we decided to look for a dog for him. Eventually we matched him with Dolly, a beautiful Golden Retriever, in 2021.

We trained Dolly to detect chemical changes in Chris’s glucose levels by smelling his breath, saliva or sweat and this will let her know that his blood sugar is too low. Dolly does frequent sniff checks at Chris’s feet throughout the day on her own as part of her job. If Chris is feeling off, he can also say “check, check,” which cues Dolly to sniff his feet/leg area. When Dolly discovers these changes, she and other diabetic service dogs are trained to alert their handlers, either by pawing at them, making physical contact, barking, or simply forcing their human to listen. Some service dogs of this kind are even trained to go and get help or medication.


Dolly goes nearly everywhere with Chris. “It’s awesome to have a four-legged companion like
her. She gives me support and I know she always has my back. If I don’t respond, she
gets more adamant until I do.”

As long-time volunteers for Custom Canines, Chris and his wife have decided to pay the gift of Dolly forward by raising another puppy for us so that we can help more Veterans and First Responders with these humbling, life-saving animals.

“I have a glucose monitor now, but Dolly knows before the monitor does. She’s been trained to alert me when my level hits 78 or lower.”


Custom Canines Service Dog Academy has trained canine partners for US military veterans and First Responders for over 10 years, enabling these men and women to feel safer, to escape isolation, and to lead more independent lives.

We need your continued support to continue our support for them! Any gift, however small or large, is deeply appreciated by our clients, by our volunteers, and by our organization. Please will you click the DONATE button below and make that end of year gift today?


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