LEYDEN, Mass. (WWLP) – After a two year waiting process, a young college student now has a special four-legged sidekick with a mutual love of Hallmark movies and the outdoors to keep her company, but most importantly keep her safe.
In October Julia Duprey was introduced to a new best friend named Pretzel. Pretzel is a 14-month-old diabetic alert dog, which is a type of service dog that helps people with diabetes detect dangerously low or high blood sugar levels.
In 2004 at the age of six Julia was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, which means that Julia’s body is unable to produce insulin or produces very little. This causes her not to be able to control her blood sugar levels which can be life threatening.
November is Diabetes Awareness month and Julia spoke to 22News about her story to spread awareness.
“Diabetic alert dogs are trained mostly by scent” said Duprey. Diabetic Alert Dogs are trained to be able to decipher and detect glucose levels by the scents that are expelled from their owner’s breath and palms. These particular scents are what allow Pretzel to detect Julia’s levels and alert her. A sweet or fruity scent indicate that Julia’s levels are high, and a sweaty scent indicates her levels are low.
“Yea, no, she is just like in addition to her being like my lifeline, she is also like a built in best friend and companion. She sleeps on my bed every night, she actually sleeps with me and my cat which is the cutest thing ever,” said Duprey. The process of getting a diabetic alert dog took great patience, but something that Julia is really grateful for. Julia was on a two year waitlist and during that time she raised funds and asked for support from her community.
Diabetic Alert Dogs are costly and range between $5k-10k, and unfortunately insurance does not cover it. “I received Pretzel fully through the donations on GoFundMe. I got donations from friends and family and actually a bunch of strangers that I didn’t even know which is remarkable the kindness of strangers,” said Duprey. Thankfully, after raising enough funds Julia was able to adopt Pretzel through a service dog company called CARES.
The CARES ceremony in Kansas was a special day that didn’t mark a happy ending, but a happy beginning for Julia and Pretzel. “It was very emotional and my mom and I we started crying because it was so emotional and the trainer brought her to my feet and I bent down and gave her a big hug,” said Duprey.
Prior to having Pretzel Julia had to depend on her Dexcom, which is a device in her leg that tracks her glucose levels, and sends her phone updates throughout the day. Julia said that it wasn’t very accurate, but now thanks to Pretzel she doesn’t have to worry. “Back in the Airbnb I had low blood sugar and she stayed by my side for two hours while I was recovering. My mom and I were sitting there kind of crying thinking ‘Oh my God this is going to be lifechanging!’ This is the best decision for me,” said Duprey.
When Diabetic Alert Dogs detect a change in glucose levels they detect owners in different ways. Julia says “She kind of stares at you honestly and sometimes she might come over to you and she might bark. What we do with the training is if I am high or low we’ll say “Pretzel Check!”
Julia encourages others with Type 1 Diabetes to get a dog like Pretzel because it has made such a big difference in her life and her parents life. Now that she has Pretzel she can move to a college dorm and not worry about fainting or sleeping through a low or high glucose alert. “I love Pretzel with all of my heart and I am beyond happy that I got her,” said Duprey.