She thought she couldn't handle a puppy. She never could have guessed how that dog would help her manage her diabetes.
- Posted on Jul 26, 2016
“Looks like this one’s yours,” my husband, Bryan, said with a big, wide, knowing grin, holding up a creamy white puppy.
“Not so fast,” I shot back.
Bella, our daughter Gabrielle’s golden retriever, had had her first litter—eleven adorable little fur balls—nine with golden coats and two almost pure white. English creams, the light ones are called. There is nothing cuter in the world than golden retriever puppies. Nothing. They were all energetic, curious and affectionate.
This one, though, was definitely a troublemaker. She was beautiful—bright white coat, black button nose—but a little too restless and energetic for my taste...always getting into something, roughing up one of her brothers or sisters, looking to make mischief.
That had become an issue when Bella got sick and was unable to nurse. Bryan and I ordered sacks of puppy formula and baby bottles. Feedings were every four hours around the clock. The first time I fed the little rambunctious one she dug her paws into my arm and scratched me.
“Ow!” I shouted, but she paid no mind. I tried holding her a different way. She dug her nails in even more. By the time I finished feeding her, I had red welts all over my arms. It didn’t help that I bruise easily.
“Bryan, I can’t feed this one,” I said, annoyed.
I didn’t have the energy for a puppy like that. I have insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetes; I wear a pump that monitors my blood-sugar levels. I’ve had several surgeries, including a quadruple heart bypass and a kidney transplant, yet I’m still here, by the grace of God. With all of that, I didn’t need a puppy that was going to be a headache.
Eight weeks later, when the litter had become a little more independent, Bryan and I began making preparations to sell them—although we’d decided to keep one for me. I had grown fond of them all, even our little scratcher.
I noticed she was incredibly alert, attuned to everything around her. There was just something different about her. I was fascinated, but I still thought she would be too much dog for me.
And I had my eye on two of the golden puppies, two females. One was playful yet calm; the other was chunky and ridiculously cute.
One afternoon we visited an interested buyer with a few of the puppies. One of my favorites tagged along. I was convinced that she was meant to be mine, so I didn’t mind her coming. I had her in my arms when the woman opened the door. As soon as the puppy saw her, she jumped from my arms into hers. I was a little hurt. The puppy had picked her owner.
I still had my second choice. A family stopped by to look over the litter and immediately fell in love with my chunky girl. She ran up to them, her tail wagging—she too had found her home. Nine puppies dwindled to four, then to the two light puppies. My mother-in-law picked the puppy she wanted from the last two, the calmer pup.
Everyone had found a home except for our little troublemaker. That’s when Bryan pronounced her mine. “She must be a special dog,” he said in response to my protest. I suspected Bryan had wanted to keep her all along.
“Okay. I guess it’s me and you,” I said with a sigh of resignation. “Let’s give you a name. How about...Snow?” She had started to grow on me. Still, she was so independent, so willful. It was hard to imagine her as mine. Snow surprised me, though. She followed me wherever I went. I couldn’t leave the house without her. She seemed to want to keep an eye on me.
I must admit, soon I was kind of in love with her. She slept on the floor by my bed and when I’d get up at night to check my blood-sugar levels, she was right there beside me, as if she were curious about my condition, even concerned.
I get shaky and feel sort of off when my blood level is unstable. Those signs are red flags. I immediately drink some orange juice or eat a little peanut butter.
As long as my blood sugar is in control, I feel pretty good. If it is too high, it can affect my eyesight or extremities. If it drops too low, I run the risk of coma, or even death. Having diabetes is like walking a tightrope, and I’ve said a ton of prayers for God to watch over me and keep me safe.
For the past few years, I’d noticed that I didn’t get those red flags as much. I used to be able to sense when my blood sugar dropped. The pump is supposed to detect if it gets out of the 80 to 120 range, but it isn’t as effective as it used to be. I’d come to rely upon Bryan or Gabrielle to tell me if I started acting strange.
There was one night I didn’t wake up from a low and Bryan had to call an ambulance. After that, I got in the habit of regularly checking my blood sugar during the night. But sometimes I’d forget to get up.
One night, when Snow was six months old, I woke up to her licking my face. I looked at the clock. It was three in the morning.
“Just lie down,” I groaned, pushing her paws off the side of the bed. But she hopped back up and continued to lick me until I sat up.
“What do you want? You need to go out?”
Snow kept at it. I was really tired and didn’t feel like taking her outside. I looked over at Bryan. He was fast asleep. I forced myself out of bed, slipped into my house shoes and led her to the back door.
But she refused to go outside. She stood next to me, looking up, licking my hand. “I knew this pup was going to be trouble!” I grumbled. “She probably wants a treat!” I wanted nothing more than to crawl back in bed.
Since I was up, though, I decided to check my blood-sugar level. It was at 46—dangerously low! I ate a snack to bring it up. Snow immediately stopped licking me and didn’t bother me the rest of the night.
The next day, I told Bryan what had happened.
“That surprises you? She’s a special dog,” he said. “I knew it from the start.”
Had Snow not gotten me up when she did, I could’ve gone into a diabetic coma. Had she actually known? It seemed almost...miraculous. I took her head in my hands and gazed at her. Something in those dark liquidy eyes told me she had known. Almost as if she was saying, “I was sent to watch over you.”
I held her close to me. “Thank you, Snow. I think you are an answer to prayer.”
My blood sugar dropped to dangerous levels a few more times and each time, Snow was right there, licking me, alerting me before it was too late. She became my number one sign that I needed treatment. One day, I had a high of 400 and a low of 62 all within a two-hour span. Both times, Snow let me know I had to check my levels.
Snow became my service dog all on her own. People are amazed by what she can do, but I think the angels trained her especially for me.
It’s funny how we are taught lessons in life. Snow was the puppy I rejected, the blessing I almost gave away. She seemed like she was too much dog for me. Too smart. Too alive. And yet she was the dog that was meant for me and for no other. She was my lifesaver.
For more inspiring stories, subscribe to Guideposts magazine.