Gifted furry companion helps Mississippi boy in fight of his life
Published 11:50 am Friday, September 27, 2019
Brandon King is in the fight of his life, but he will not continue it alone.
The 10-year-old, who has Type 1 diabetes, faces a daily struggle with his fluctuating insulin levels. Thanks to donations from community organizations, King recently was gifted a diabetic alert dog to help monitor his insulin levels.
Bilko, a yellow British Labrador bred at Wildrose Kennels of Oxford, was trained at Wildrose and Hub City Service Dogs in Hattiesburg in preparation to help King.
“We are honored to have one of the Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dogs placed with Brandon,” said Tom Smith, president of Wildrose Kennels. “We know it will be life-changing. Thanks to the hard work of the Northwest Student Nursing Association and generosity of the community, we were able to give Brandon a best friend and life-saving companion.”
For individuals like King who live with Type 1 diabetes, the biggest threat is rapidly changing and irregular blood sugar levels. Even with the modern technology of the 21st Century, such as glucose monitors, there is still not a method that’s able to sense changing blood levels as quickly as diabetic alert dogs.
Dogs trained to assist diabetic individuals learn to monitor smells in the air for a specific scent on the human breath that is related to rapidly dropping or low blood sugar levels. The dogs are then trained to alert the person with diabetes, usually by touching them in a specific way, such as pawing or nudging them.
The dogs are even trained to alert family members when necessary. Bilko will be on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, allowing King’s family to worry a little less each day.
The Wildrose Diabetic Alert Dog is sponsored by the Northwest Mississippi Community College Student Nursing Association, with contributions from Wildrose Oxford, Hub City Service Dogs, the CREATE Foundation and the King family.
Donations will cover the cost of the dog all the way through lengthy stages of training. The total cost for Diabetic Alert Dog training can be more than $30,000.
Danielle Drewery of Wildrose Kennels trained and worked with King and his family on how to handle Bilko in the home, at school and restaurants. The early training was designed to help King gain confidence and build trust with Bilko.
Drewery also taught King’s family how to send Bilko on retrieves as a reward.
“As soon as they met, you could tell they were going to be best friends,” Drewery said. “Brandon did great throughout the training process.”
The Student Nursing Association at NWCC presented the final donation for Bilko at Wildrose Kennels Oxford last Wednesday.