For 20-year-old Sara Lynn James every day is a gift and a struggle. James is from the Pitt County town of Bethel. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was very young.
James must check her blood sugar level often. She uses an insulin pump to help keep it under control, but even then there's always the potential of a dangerous change. James says, I've had a lot of problems with lows, my mom has found me unconscious."
That’s why when she heard about service dogs that could help her gain some independence and peace of mind; it was an opportunity she couldn't pass up.
James got in touch with Warren Retrievers out of Orange Virginia and in July she received her new puppy name “Hope.”
Trainer Cheri Campbell says it's best for the owner to get the dog as a puppy.
Hope is trained to use her sense of smell to know whether James’ blood sugar levels are low or high. If it's low it smells like acetone. If it's high it smells fruity. Hope is then taught to tap her owner with her paw or her nose if James’ blood sugar level does get too a certain point.
James also says, “If I’m unresponsive and don’t wake up, she will eventually be trained to press a button that calls 911 with a prerecorded message of me.”
Campbell says, “The dogs are on the job 24/7. Your meters and pumps and everything else run off of batteries and they go dead, these pups they just run off of love.”
”It just gives me and especially my parents a piece of mind that Hope will be in control and she's got my back,” says James.
For James there is one drawback. As she walks around in public places people do stare. She must take Hope everywhere and says sometimes that can be nerve-racking.
James says, “I was really scared what people would think, because most people associate dogs with the blind.”
James wants others to be aware that service dogs can serve multiple purposes, and that for her Hope is giving her just that, hope to have more freedom and live every day to it’s fullest.