Diabetic dog’s a done deal

Colin MacLean
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Family overwhelmed by donors’ generosity; three-year-old excited to get a puppy

The Mullins family was all smiles after an anonymous donor topped up the fund they’ve been raising to buy daughter Sophie, 3, a diabetic alert dog. Here dad, Jamie, mom, Heidi Pavelka, little brother Owen and Sophie pose for a family portrait Thursday. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Sophie Mullins has an important decision to make — will she name her puppy Peaches or Lucy?

The Mullins family has successfully raised the nearly $10,000 they needed to purchase their daughter a diabetic alert dog.

And they did it in less than three days after their story went public.

Words like “happy” and “excited” don’t do their true feelings justice, laughed Heidi Pavelka, Sophie’s mom.

“It’s just been on our mind constantly. … Now we can just sit back and wait for our dog to get here, instead of thinking about how we are going to come up with the money,” said Pavelka.

The Telegram ran a story on Monday about the Mullins family and their efforts to raise $25,000 to pay for a highly trained dog to help Sophie monitor her condition. Over the past year, they raised $15,000 towards their goal.

The three-year-old Paradise resident has Type 1 diabetes and must have her blood sugar levels checked at least 12 times a day.

Diabetic alert dogs are service animals trained to monitor a diabetic’s blood sugar levels via their acute sense of smell.

The dogs are sensitized to detect when their masters’ blood sugar gets dangerously high or low, and send out a warning signal like a bark or special trick. If they can’t get anyone’s attention they are also trained to hit a panic button that will call 911.

The Mullins family first heard about these dogs about a year ago and have been raising money to get one for Sophie ever since.

They are getting their dog through Warren Retrievers, based out of Orange, Va. That company’s associated non-profit organization is Guardian Angel Service Dogs.

The actual cost of training a dog is about $40,000, but that price tag is reduced significantly through the non-profit group.

Any family that wants a dog pays a $1,000 down payment to get on a puppy waiting list. The family gets their dog when their turn comes up on the list. They then have three years to raise their share of the costs.

Pavelka admits she was worried they would not have been able to raise all the money in time, which makes her thanks all the more sincere.

“I would like to say that we’re overwhelmed by all the positive — I don’t even know what to say, it’s so overwhelming,” she said.

“Newfoundlanders really live up to their reputation of generosity.”

Pavelka maintains a blog to keep friends and family updated on their fundraising efforts, www.paws4sophie.doodlekit.com.

A lot of people donated through that website, she said.

“We’ve had people reaching out from everywhere.”

But one person in particular took a liking to Sophie’s story.

The benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous in the media, contacted the family and offered to completely top off the remaining amount of their goal.

“We kind of thought it was a joke, to be honest. We didn’t think anybody would be that kind,” she said.

But it was no joke.

Pavelka, out of respect for the donor’s wishes, declined to comment on a dollar figure — but she stressed it was a significant donation.

“He just said the story touched his heart,” she said.

“He came right to the house and wrote a cheque.”

Anyone who would still like to contribute to Sophie’s dog costs can still do so.

The animal is paid for, but the same company offers medical insurance for the dogs. The animal is automatically covered for any genetic defects, but things like a broken limb requires an additional policy.

Anyone who’d like to contribute to that fund can donate online at www.guardianangelservicedogs.org. Donors should indicate that the intended recipients of the money are Sophie Mullins and her dog.

Now that the question of money is out of the way, the Mullins family can concentrate on preparing for the newest addition to their household. They’re scheduled to get their puppy sometime between the end of November and the end of January.

Training it properly will take nearly two years.

Sophie is oblivious to the fundraising efforts, said Pavelka, but she’s been aware for some time that she’s getting a puppy, so she’s more than a little excited.

“She just wants a dog. She doesn’t really even understand what the dog’s for,” she laughed.

“But when she sees us up here dancing around the house because we’re done — she gets pretty excited too.”



Organizations: Guardian Angel Service Dogs.The

Geographic location: Orange, Va.

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Recent comments

  • Betsy
    October 12, 2012 - 21:46

    Warren is a very sketchy organization. I have heard bad things, which have been echoed in previous comments. Please, please research carefully and don't get conned! https://www.facebook.com/bad.DADs.out?ref=stream This Facebook group is all about Diabetic Alert Dog scams, and Warren is one they have lots of issues with. ... I truly hope that this family gets the dog they need. I have a friend who has a DAD for her daughter, and the pup is an absolute God-send to the family. But she didn't have to pay thousands upon thousands for him.

  • Melinda
    September 28, 2012 - 18:59

    Doesn't look like they did read the contact. Poor family, if something happens and they can't move forward, they are out that 10k dollars. My suggestion, stop fundraising for this company. Fundraise for your son, keep the money until you get the contract. Don't they know that their money does not even cover all of the training. I have seen these dogs in action, and trust me, it is safe to question if they are even imprinted. As far as trained alerts, there are none, it is up to the family to train these dogs on their own. Yeah they get a trainer, but not every 90 days. Half the families that just got dogs are all complaining their dogs are broken and now they are out 20k dollars. Oh wait, I mean 23k dollars, he just upped the price. Hey Mullins family, if you want to see a copy of what your getting into, I would be more than happy to show it you. BTW, you have no choice but to sign it whether you agree or not, cause if you dont, you wont get your dog and you dont get your money back either

  • Melaina
    September 28, 2012 - 13:56

    I've read the contract for this program, I'm guess the family hasn't. I don't think they are aware that this contract does not cover any genetic defects the dog might have and if the dog does have genetic defects then the program euthanizes the dog. Seems like that would be traumatic for the child. And such a horrifying thing for the program to do!

    • Tina
      September 28, 2012 - 15:53

      You probably find the bad in kids trick or treating at Halloween, and hunting for eggs at Easter.

  • Ashley
    September 28, 2012 - 13:23

    $40,000? Then how can you get a fully-trained DAD from Canine Hope for Diabetics for $13,000? Sounds like this family wants to do the best for the child but got ripped off. Shame on Guardian Angels for taking advantage of these families!

  • Dan
    September 28, 2012 - 09:46

    Awesome, glad Sophie and her new best friend will soon be together.

  • Diabetic
    September 28, 2012 - 07:52

    This is great news to read so early in the morning. I was diagnosed with Type 1 when I was 12 and I am pretty sure that my parents would have went to great lenghts to provide some relief for themselves and to keep me safe as well. I am now 43 years old and my mother still do not sleep, so she tells me. Constantly worrying that my levels may drop while sleeping. Big congratulations and also to all who has donated this has to be the best money that you ever contributed. Be really nice for the telegram to follow up with the little girl and her family after they finally get their Guardian angel, so as we all can see just how important owning a loving service animal /pet really can be.

  • Mom
    September 28, 2012 - 07:34

    What a great story to start your day off right, thank you to the Telegram for bringing this story to the people of NL and thank God there are still good people out there. What a wonderful gesture and hopefully everything will work out wonderful for Sophie and her family. God Bless you all!

  • Jerome
    September 28, 2012 - 06:45

    Beautiful, beautiful and beautiful! Thanks to The Telegram for bringing this story to light.

  • SR
    September 28, 2012 - 06:39

    What an amazing gesture for this act of kindness...so, good people still really do exsist...it warms my heart to see this story today! Bless your heart!