Our Debt to You
It all started with our readers. One reader in particular, that is: Patricia McAdams, who sent us the story of Jeannette Lesher and her amazing yellow Labrador Retriever.
You may remember Lesher from the June 2007 Reflections column; she was the one whose dog, Nemo, alerted her to a terrible blood glucose low, insistently waking her up after she'd fallen asleep and literally dragging her out of the room so she could call to her husband for help.
Cue the floodgates: Once we printed that story, the letters came rushing in, telling us about cats and dogs with similar abilities to sense hypoglycemia, in more than one case actually saving the lives of their human companions. Reader after reader made us wonder: What's going on here?
So we asked Amanda Spake, a writer who has been covering health for more than two decades, to look into the subject of dogs trained to alert people with diabetes when their blood glucose drops. She was as surprised and delighted as we were to hear their extraordinary stories. "All of these people, adults and children alike, were transformed by the presence of the dogs in their lives," she says. As of now, scientists just don't know for sure how these animals can do what they do—and how reliable they really are. But their human companions have plenty to say about it, as you'll read in Spake's story, which begins on page 40.
Dogs have actually long been a part of the story of diabetes. The 19th-century scientists who first made the connection between the pancreas and diabetes operated on dogs to test their theories; when insulin was discovered—in dogs—in 1921, it led to knowledge that would save the lives of countless numbers of humans. So while we recognize the working dogs who help people today, it's worth thanking them for what their ancestors gave up for the cause, too.