Duncan-and-HoneyDuncan Smuts, 12 years old, was diagnosed at the age of 3 ½ with type 1 Diabetes. It was a huge adjustment and stress for us as a family as Duncan is a brittle diabetic. We considered getting a dog for Duncan for a few years but they were only available from various associations overseas such as Dogs for Diabetics (D4D) and were very costly. By chance we came across Carien Meyer, a dog trainer in Melkbosstrand, who was very keen to assist us in training a diabetic assist dog. Carien found Honey, a Golden Retriever which she thought would be suitable for Duncan, but unfortunately was not able to continue with the training and handed over to Lucy (Just Dogs).

Honey arrived in January after been spayed and so the training alongside Lucy began. We are still adjusting to having a dog in the house that goes everywhere with us and even sleeps on the bed, which was initially a no go! Our cat is also still adjusting to the new member of our family.  Honey enjoys being with everyone in the family but at the moment Honey’s job is to be with Duncan whenever he is around so that they can have a special bond and eventually she will pick up when his blood sugar levels drop and alert him.

Duncan loves Honey and spends many hours a week in discipline and scent training.

The training takes a lot of time and dedication and therefore it is a lot of responsibility to continue to work and improve the scent training. Honey woke Duncan one Sunday morning by pawing his face and his blood glucose level was low – we can only hope that is the start of her picking up future lows on a more regular basis. For those parents who have diabetic children ,you will understand the lack of sleep due to testing his sugar every night.This is the main reason we got Honey- to serve as an early warning system!

So for that reason I would definitely recommend them to take this on.

From Duncan’s side, he has never had a dog before Honey. He loves having her around and says that she keeps him entertained. He especially enjoys the training work that he must do regularly with Honey. This includes training at least 3-4 times a day – daily and additional training with Lucy (Just Dogs) 3 times a week. Duncan agrees that with the dogs’ comes a lot of responsibility but that they can play such a big role in a child’s life and helping families deal with type 1 Diabetes. Duncan hopes to create awareness on Medical Alert Dogs in South Africa to help others, like him, diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes.

December 2016


Animal Talk Interview