Shadow, a black Labrador retriever, arrived at the family’s home recently, ready to integrate into the Wilsons’ lives.
“It’s like having another child,” Jennifer Wilson said.
The youngest of the family, Madilyn, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at 14 months old, and although adjusting to the illness is something the family will deal with for a lifetime, things may have gotten a little easier with Shadow.
The dog is a specially-trained diabetic alert dog that can detect when Madilyn, now 2 years old, has dramatic rises and falls in her blood sugar levels.
Trainer Erin Gray, with Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers in Virginia, accompanied Shadow and spent several days helping both Shadow and her new family adjust to their new living arrangements.
Teaching the family basic obedience commands and helping them identify Shadow’s “natural alerts” to changes in Madilyn’s blood sugar will take time, Gray said, but the benefits of diabetic service dogs are immediately noticeable and she said it is rewarding to see families connect with their service dogs.
“I absolutely love it,” Gray said. “Once you see them with the kids and see them doing their job it’s kind of amazing.”
Wilson said she witnessed Shadow’s excellent training on the first day of her arrival at her family’s home in White.
“From the time they got here, she did what she had to do,” she said.
Gray said the dogs can actually detect by smell if blood sugar is too high or too low.
“When the sugar gets high it’s a sugary smell; when it gets really low it’s more of an acetone smell,” Gray said.
Wilson said Shadow will continue to receive more training that will include medical supply retrieval and emergency services alert by paw notification.
The dog came with a hefty price tag of $25,000 and Wilson said the community has rallied around the family to help them raise the funds.
Madilyn’s Miracle Bike Ride will be May 25 from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Registration is $10 for riders and $15 for passengers.
Registration is at 10:30 a.m. and the ride begins at 11 a.m.
The 70-mile motorcycle ride will travel throughout Bartow County and begins at the Hope Center in Cartersville.
The ride ends at the Harley Davidson dealership in Cartersville where food and music will be available.
Information: (706) 506-0583.