Sophie Mullins ran to her new friend Peaches — a diabetic alert dog — with excitement and joy today at St. John's International Airport.
Sophie, four, along with family and friends were at the airport to meet Peaches and its trainer Phoebe Bault as they arrived.
Sophie hugged and kissed the dog, a young black Labrador retriever, and posed for photos and videos.
Diabetic alert dog to meet family today
Sophie Mullins will finally get to meet an important companion this morning who will help her cope with Type 1 diabetes.
The four-year-old girl from Paradise is set to meet her six-month-old puppy Peaches at a hotel in
St. John’s. The black Labrador retriever is a trained diabetic alert dog.
“She’s very excited,” said Heidi Pavelka, Sophie’s mother, speaking with The Telegram on Sunday. “I don’t know if she really gets it, because we’ve been talking about her dog coming for a year, so I don’t know if she really realizes that it’s (Monday).”
Last fall, The Telegram told the story of the Mullins family’s efforts to raise the necessary funds to purchase the dog — at the time they were $10,000 short after having raised $15,000.
A short while later, an anonymous donor came through with most of the remaining funds necessary to purchase the animal. Peaches comes from Warren Retrievers, a company based in Virginia. It has an associated non-profit group called Guardian Angel Service Dogs. The actual cost of training a dog is $40,000.
The Mullins family has been on a waitlist since last May, making a $1,000 down payment to secure a spot on it. They heard about Warren Retrievers through a news story about a family in Saskatchewan that was going to get a diabetic alert dog.
While having a diabetic alert dog will not absolve her parents of their responsibility of checking on Sophie, who must have her blood sugar levels checked at least 12 times daily, it will prove helpful.
“We’re still going to have to check her sugar and we’re still going to have to get up at nighttime, but it’s kind of just an extra set of hands, we’ll say,” said Pavelka. “The dog is going to alert (us) to her sugars if she’s going low or high. We have a really hard time with Sophie at the nighttime. She’s very unpredictable, so we’re hoping Peaches is going to give us a little bit of extra help in the nighttime especially.”
Diabetic alert dogs are sensitized to detect when a person’s blood-sugar levels are dangerously high or low. They will bark or complete a special trick to attract the attention of others. If that fails, the dog is trained to hit a panic button to contact 911.
Peaches will be accompanied by a trainer when she arrives in
St. John’s today. The trainer will remain in the province for four day days to help the family learn how to work with Peaches.
“We’ll have a lot to learn,” said Pavelka. “It will be a busy four days, but we’re looking forward to it.”
The trainer is due to return every 90 days for the first two years of the dog’s life to handle additional training.
The family has a kennel set up and dog food purchased in anticipation of accepting Peaches into their home. They will have a health and life insurance policy in place for the dog.
“We’re just ready and excited for her arrival,” said Pavelka.