Cory Carter can’t always tell when his blood sugars drop into the danger zone. But his four-legged companion, Ukita, can.
And Ukita is quick to let Carter know – be it a paw to his leg or a rude wake up call in the middle of the night. Whatever is needed.
Ukita is a four-year-old yellow Labrador retriever that functions as a diabetic alert service dog, specifically trained to detect low blood sugar levels in Type 1 diabetics.
She’s been there to warn Carter of the dangers many times during their past two and a half years together. And for that, Carter is eternally grateful since he can’t detect when his blood sugar drops to life-threatening levels.
That’s why the 30-year-old Murrayville electrician is sharing their story, and encouraging people to participate in one of two upcoming fundraising walks for the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides (LFCDG) happening in his hometown of Langley. The first is coming up this Sunday.
Carter can attest to how important these walks are for people living with varying medical or physical disabilities, like him. Because, as he tells it, the money raised goes such a long ways to helping provide life-changing dog guides to people.
“I had come to a point with my Type 1 diabetes where it was robbing me of some of the joys in my life,” Carter admitted.
“I don’t recognize low blood sugars when I’m asleep, and I have had a situation where you go unconscious have a seizure. This is why Ukita is so valuable for me,” he said.
“When I would have dangerous lows needing medical attention, it was on my family to keep me safe and give me life-saving medication,” he elaborated.
After a period of bad lows, Carter and his wife, Abby, decided there had to be something else out there to help. That’s when their search uncovered LFCDG.
After a period of about two years, Carter was matched with Ukita.
“Ukita, my dog guide, is not the cure for Type 1 diabetes,” Carter quickly clarified. “She is a tool in my toolbelt that helps fight the daily battle against this disease. She brings peace of mind to my family and myself as she helps to let me know when my blood sugar is dropping.”
It means that when his blood sugars drop below 4.5, she is able to detect the scent that is given off and alert him that he needs to take some sugar to bring his levels back up.
“Most Type 1 diabetics recognize when their blood sugar drops to a low level, but for myself I do not feel it and that is where Ukita is there to help me,” Carter said.
In some cases, that just meant her coming up and putting a paw on his leg to alert him. In more serious cases, Ukita is also trained to alert his wife, grab his blood tester, bring sugar tablets, or awake him – if necessary.
“We have had it where Ukita has woken me up in the middle of the night, and I have checked and I was low. So she got a special treat at 2 a.m. and I had juice to bring my sugar levels up,” he shared.
In the last few years, this duo has been virtually inseparable.
“She is always by my side,” Carter said, noting he was paired up with Ukita in January 2017 – after three weeks of intense training together by LFCDG in Ontario.
“I have my own electrical company where I do work all over the Lower Mainland,” Carter explained.
“This makes it a little difficult with taking Ukita to work, but we make it work. She will come to most jobs and just be around me as I rewire a house, or she will come stand on the base of the ladder as I’m working up it.”
It’s not always the ideal situation, Carter said, but these dogs are “very adaptable and trained very well by Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, and I’m able to have her in a position to do her job while I do my work.”
While quick to sing the praises of his four-legged companion, Carter was also clarified that Ukita is not perfect.
She’s still a dog – albiet it a smart one.
“Just like humans we all have our off days, our tired moments, and our distractible times. Ukita is not a pet. She is a working dog and works to help keep me safe during moments of danger. But we work hard as a team to stay on top of things, maintain our good behaviour, and do what she was so diligently trained for. It takes a lot of dedication to be a dog guide team,” he said.
“But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
These working dogs are doing a specific job and they need to be focusing on the person they work for, so interaction is less than with a normal dog, Carter explained.
“But my eight-month-old son [Brooks] has trouble keeping his hands off her,” he added, with a chuckle.
Dogs trained to help many
“The great thing about Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides is you’re not just focusing on one thing, they help different groups of people,” Carter said.
Different dogs are trained to aid not only diabetics, but people living with autism, folks dealing with visual impairment or blindness, those who are deaf or hard of hearing, people with physical disabilities, and those who have epilepsy.
There’s also dog guides that work with professional agencies to help individuals surviving traumatic situations.
“They do such good with these dogs and rely on these walks to make it possible,” he added.
These walks help cover the cost – an average of $25,000 per dog – it takes to raise, train, and place the animals.
Therefore, it’s fundraisers like these, Carter emphasized, that ensure none of that cost is passed on to qualified applicants across the country.
LFCDG receives no government funding and relies solely on donations from individuals, corporations, and fundraising activities. This is why the Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides is so important, Carter insisted.
To date, these annual walks have helped raise more than $17 million for the foundation.
With more than 3,000 dogs already been placed, organizers say there’s still so many more who would benefit from the seven types of dog guides.
There’s a Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides being hosted by the Langley Lions this Sunday, May 26, at the West Langley Hall, with sign-in starting at 10 a.m. There’s also another local walk happening two weeks later, on Sunday, June 9. The latter event is being hosted by the Fort Langley Lions, and starts at the Lelem Arts and Cultural Café in Fort Langley at 9 a.m.
To register for one of the upcoming local walks, or to make a donation, people can go online: www.walkfordogguides.com.
“I would challenge readers who read this to give what you can. Because you do make a difference with all that you give. And I thank those who have given. For people like me, you’ve made a difference in my life forever,” Carter concluded.
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