The bond between a dog and a child can be endearing.
For the Hanchon family, it’s been life-changing and life-saving. Seven-year-old Kate has Type 1 diabetes and her best friend is her 22-week-old black lab, Sprinkels. This dog is not just a family pet, this lab is a service dog: Sprinkels’ job is to let the Hanchons know when Kate needs help.
In the last two weeks, Sprinkels has indicated Kate’s diabetic levels were either too high or too low on five occasions. In every case, Sprinkels was right. And, by the way, the dog’s alerts were noted when Kate was at school and the dog was at home. Kate attends Mitchell Elementary, which is almost a mile from where she lives.
Tim and Tanya Hanchon moved to Charleston seven years ago. Tim’s a teacher at The Citadel and Tanya keeps other small children during the day. Tanya also keeps a watchful eye on Sprinkels, in case the little black lab needs to tell her anything.
In January of this year, the Hanchons started raising money to buy a service dog. The cost was $20,000. There were bake sales and Internet fundraisers and even a money-raising effort in their hometown in Michigan that contributed to the cause. In three months, they had enough.
In August, just before the start of school, Kate and Sprinkels met.
Trainers told the Hanchons the dog could detect abnormal readings even if Kate and Sprinkels were five miles apart. The signals are quite specific. If Sprinkels rubs his nose on your body, the diabetic numbers are high. If Sprinkels starts pawing, the levels are low. When Tanya notices the alert, she calls the school nurse, Lidie Collier. Tests are taken and medicine is delivered. Kate’s teacher, Esta Musarra, encourages those calls and understands the minor class disruptions. Everybody knows that Sprinkels’ nose keeps Kate safe.
If this was all there were to this story, it would be plenty … but there’s more. The Hanchon family is now helping others with Type 1 diabetes to better understand what is also called juvenile diabetes. They started a website called adogforkate.com that explains how Sprinkels changed their lives. The website also offers encouragement and ideas for raising money for families trying to buy their own service dog.
Tanya was skeptical when she first heard about this program. Now she says “this dog saved our kid’s life.” The family attends Seacoast Church on Sundays and Sprinkels is allowed to rest just below their feet even while Kate is down the hall in her own class.
It’s a huge relief knowing that while the family is going through its routines of work and worship and school, Sprinkels is always tuned in to Kate.
Nights are still daunting for the Hanchons because sleep is the most dangerous time for a Type 1 diabetic. For the moment, Kate’s dad wakes her up every three hours to check her levels. Eventually, Sprinkels will be able to sense those fluctuations at night, too.
Normally, sprinkles are added to make a child’s ice cream cone even more appealing.
In Kate’s case, adding a little black lab named Sprinkels is much more than a tasty topping, it’s a family pet that unleashes a daily reason to give thanks.
I’m just sayin’ …