Meet Cancer Treatment Grant Recipient: Diabetes Alert Dog Montana

Montana is the first medical alert dog who we have had the pleasure to assist. He has been active for almost six years detecting low blood sugar states of his mom, Kristen Beard. Kristen contacted us in February 2011
about obtaining a
Working Dog Cancer Treatment Grant. Her handsome, six-year-old diabetes alert dog, Montana, had been diagnosed with oral fibrosarcoma, just having had a hemimandibulectomy (removal of half of the lower jaw). But, now the oncologists were recommending further radiation in order to treat the remaining microscopic disease.

Here is Kristen's story about his life-saving work and her special guy, Montana:

 

I have had type 1 diabetes since I was seven-years-old. For some unexplainable reason, I've always had a problem with my blood sugar dropping dangerously low in the middle of the night. Living alone, it's been something that I've worried about (passing out while asleep).

I was completely dependent on family, friends, and professors and an elaborate system of phone calls just to make sure that I was conscious in the mornings. When I got Montana, as a six-week-old puppy, all of that changed.

The first time Montana woke me up in the night, he was probably six-months-old, and I was so upset that he had disturbed my sleep. He kept barking at me. He would bark and then come close to my face and cry and then bark again. I was really groggy and so angry that he was waking me up. 

I sat up and turned on the light, only to find that I was feeling horribly. After I had been up for a while, I tested my blood sugar and found that at 28 it was dangerously low. Montana didn't need to go out, nor was anything else wrong. He just wanted me to wake up.

I really thought it was some sort of a miracle, and I can't tell you how guilty I felt for being so mad that he was barking.

Every time since, that I have had a bad low at night, Montana has faithfully barked, whined, nudged me, or done a combination of the three until I have woken up. And, this happens several times a month, sometimes more often.

I once told my doctor about Montana's miraculous ability, assuming that she would think I was crazy. Oddly enough, she wasn't at all surprised. She said she doesn't know what it is, but that dogs and cats seem to be able to sense that something is wrong. Maybe a change in body temperature, maybe irregular breathing or movement... Who knows... Whatever it is, I'm truly grateful for Montana, my miracle dog.

I have only recently finished college and work as a professional violist and music teacher, playing with several different orchestras and teaching private lessons. I've been able to live alone and travel alone, and not worry about putting so much stress on my family and friends. My doctors have written letters so that Montana is able to travel and go everywhere with me. He has been featured in several diabetes articles about hypoglycemic alert dogs [Diabetes Alert Dogs by Marie Rosenthal, MS. in Diabetes Self Management, July/August 2010, pages 23-26]. Even though Montana was never officially certified as a service dog, he has saved my life dozens of times over, and functions as a service dog for me.


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