25 Feb 2016

Setting The Record Straight With SDWR

Because SDWR is not a stranger to criticism we’d like to share an SDWR review with you. In our fast paced world, no organization is immune to online discussions and that’s why we feel it’s time to set the record straight. Unfortunately, there are some organizations out there who give Diabetic Alert Dogs a bad reputation. At SDWR, we want you to know that we are not one of them. We are a Not-For-Profit organization that dedicates it’s time and resources to training service dogs that are backed by a performance guarantee. Have you ever had someone spread false information about you? Didn’t you want the opportunity to set the record straight? Please take  minute to read one woman’s SDWR review about her Diabetic Alert Dog and how it changed her life with Type 1.

SDWR Review: Tyzalie the Diabetic Alert Dog


If you are reading this, it is because you are considering whether, or how, a service dog can improve your life, or that of your child or loved one.  Let me share my story with you.

I was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes, an auto-immune disease, back in 1965, back in the days before the convenient and powerful technologies we have today.  The only “testing” available was of urine, which told us what my sugar level had approximately been, roughly ten hours before.  Back then, we didn’t count carbs, or even use a “sliding scale” because there was no home blood glucose testing.  But somehow, with little support and no technology, my mother managed to keep me alive. (How she did so, I’m not too sure!  lol)

Through the years I have investigated developing technologies as they were rolled out.  Home blood testing came out as I headed to college. It was an awful system that cost about $10/day to use, which was a lot of money for a college student in 1980.  I’ve had 4 different makes/models of pumps and 2 different types of continuous glucose monitors.  With every technology purchase, I spent months reading everything I could about each competing product that was available.

Four years ago, I woke up and tested my sugar, my long-established habit, to see that I was only 32, but had no symptoms.  I realized that extremely low sugars without symptoms had been happening more in the prior six months than in the past 4 decades put together.  So I recalled an article I had read almost a year before about diabetic alert dogs.  And just like I do with technological devices, and perspective endocrinologists or other doctors I hire, I began to research service dog providers, speaking with owners and trainers of companies all over the country.

It was a fairly easy decision for me to settle on Service Dogs by SDWR.  I liked that they would come to me and that they would work with me at multiple points over an extended period of time to fine-tune both my skills and the dog’s skills.  I liked the comments and experiences I was reading on Facebook made by clients of sdwr.  I liked the sense of “family” that the clients seemed to have with one another.  I liked that the company would help me come up with fundraising ideas and encourage me continually, with the fundraising as well as support around living with diabetes and other invisible disabilities.  I like that Dan, as a Type One Diabetic himself, GOT ME and understood my needs.  And I like that SDWR would not make me choose between my service dog and my other furbabies, as several other companies demand.

Tzaylie, which literally means “My Shadow,” arrived just over 3 years ago.  She alerts multiple times daily, because I have a very narrow target range.  She is up to an hour before I feel symptoms and think to check my sugar.  She detects lows before my continuous glucose monitor does (which I continue to wear for the statistics it provides me, not for the alarms).  In June 2013, we were attending a professional conference out of town.  After lunch, she crawled out from under the table and “told” me to check my sugars.  135, which would have been perfect were it not for the 8.5 units of insulin, given at lunch, that had not yet been absorbed, which would have lowered my sugar by over 400 points.  It took all my glucose tabs and almost 40 ounces of the hotel’s orange juice for me to stay safely in range while all that insulin was absorbed so that I could safely drive home.  Without her early alert, I very likely would have been shipped home in a body bag.  I started documenting her “critical alerts” that day, and have since journalled about 36 such incidents.  Each incident has related to times that either my meal or my insulin dose was not absorbed as expected and would have led to a catastrophe if I waited until I felt a symptom before checking, and fixing, my sugars.  She refuses to get in the car if my sugar is going to go low.  She refuses to take another step if we are out hiking and she recognizes that I’m about to have a problem.  Last year, she is THE reason why hundred’s of people were not inconvenienced by our plane having to touch down in order  to get me to a hospital.  That afternoon it took an entire bag of dried fruit and several glasses of orange juice to keep me in range and no one was any the wiser except my stewardess, and the passenger next to me.

Tzaylie gives me the confidence to know that I will be safe for hours on end, whether I’m driving across the Mojave Desert, flying across the country or hiking in the Sierra’s.  She gives me the assurance that I will wake up in the morning, something 150,000 of us don’t do each year, mostly due to low blood sugars.  She gives my husband peace of mind that I will come home to him each evening, and she alerts to him if I am distracted.  She reminds me, when I am distracted by life, to follow through with what I need to do, whether that is to eat my meal, take my insulin or get around to actually DRINK the juice that she got for me out of the fridge.  I owe my life many times over to Tzaylie, to the trainers and to Dan, for his vision in starting this company.  She is worth her weight in gold and well worth the effort of fundraising.  She is an invaluable part of my treatment team, not to mention my favorite member.  🙂  Without her by my side, I would not have been here to collect my 50-year Survivor’s Medal from the Joslin Clinic.

My SDWR review? I have gained not only better health and a loving companion/employee (she works for kibble), but I have also gained a second family, a BIG family made up of clients, staff at “the farm,” and the trainers, who continue to support me long after we have “graduated.”  I have not one moment of regret these past three years over my choice to get my diabetic alert dog from SDWR, not a single moment.  I dread the idea of Tzaylie retiring and needing a “replacement model,” but I know that I will remain with the company I chose nearly four years ago.  Their vision, their passion and their dedication to excellence in service shines and it has come through in all my interactions with everyone I have ever dealt with.

I hope that my voice reaffirms for you that a service dog can and will have a powerful influence in your life and will be worth all your effort.


Patti K.