ELIOT, Maine — Five-year-old Wesley Rolston has a guardian angel. His name is Bear and he’s a service dog who has already saved the little boy from danger.
Bear visited Eliot Elementary School on Friday to meet the students who made it possible for Bear to become Wes’s guardian angel. Raising money to pair Bear with Wes was a special cause last year during the annual Read Across America fundraiser at the school. Each year, children read books and donate to good causes — in this case, raising money to bring service dogs to Wes and other children in the school district who suffer from Type 1 diabetes.
In the office of Eliot Elementary on Friday morning, Wes’s mom, Katie, explained how Bear truly is an angel to her son. Type 1 diabetes can sometimes result in hypoglycemia when Wes’s blood sugar tanks. If his blood sugar gets too low, Wes could start having seizures and even die. The problem is detecting that medical condition in time to reverse it. That’s where Bear comes in.
The specially trained dog already saved Wes’s life on the second day Bear was with the kindergartner. Katie, Wes and Bear were visiting her other son’s preschool to explain Bear’s purpose to the children there. Wes was giving his speech to the children and Bear was lying by Katie’s feet. Suddenly, the dog started pawing Katie’s foot. The trainer said it meant Bear was alerting her to a problem with Wes’s blood sugar levels.
Katie looked at Wes’s glucose monitor, which was reading 110. That meant Wes was OK and nothing was wrong. But Katie remembers telling herself to trust the dog. Putting her faith in Bear, she tested Wes’s blood sugar. Bear was right. Wes was not OK. His blood sugar level had plummeted to 42.
“At 42 kids are known to start seizing and ultimately, it could lead to death in certain circumstances,” Katie said. It took over 20 minutes for his glucose monitor to catch up to indicate that his blood glucose levels were even dropping, she said.
Bear was specially trained as a diabetic alert dog by Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers (SDWR). Katie explained that her son and other Type 1 diabetics have hypoglycemia unawareness. They show no symptoms of low blood glucose levels until it is catastrophic.
Wes has all the modern technology of insulin pumps and a glucose monitoring system, but the dog beats all of those gadgets by up to 20 minutes. Bear can detect a low or high blood sugar event before any of those sophisticated technological devices can, Katie said. That’s why they are so grateful to have Bear. He can detect in real time when Wes’s blood sugar levels are jeopardizing his health and safety.
Wes lightly caressed Bears shiny black fur on Friday as he explained how Bear helps him with his health problem. But that’s not the only perk of having his canine guardian angel in his life. “He always snuggles with me and he’s always so happy to see me,” Wes said.
Principal Maureen Goering asked the dynamic duo if they wanted to walk around the perimeter of the gym where students were waiting to let them get a closer look. “Now remember,” Goering told students, “Bear is working, so stay settled. They are learning how to be a team together.”
As Wes and Bear walked the perimeter, Bear’s tail wagged and the gymnasium was filled with the oohs and aahhs of children enthralled by a soft and adorable black dog. Finally, the children were seeing the pay off of all of that reading last year — a guardian angel in canine form.
After the trek around the room, Wes grabbed the mic to address students and say what was in his heart. “Thank you for fundraising for my dog,” he said.
Taking the microphone back, Goering squeezed Wes’s shoulder and said warmly: “My friends, I am always so proud of our school, every day. It’s moments like this that my heart just wants to burst with joy. I’m so proud of what we’ve done to help this family and all the other projects that we’ve done. We’ve truly worked together and made a difference in the world. Thank you for all of your hard work.”
For more about SDWR service dogs see SDWR.org. The organization specializes in training for diabetic alert dogs, autism service dogs and seizure response and PTSD service dogs.