Elijah’s Tale: Living life with a service dog

Kylie Hughes, Online Editor

For those suffering from Type 1 diabetes, there is no cure yet. There is only constant blood sugar testing, monitoring food intake, and insulin injections or use of an insulin pump. This is the life of Elijah Bates, a freshman at Omaha North.

From the age of three years old, Bates has been suffering from Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a genetic disorder that affects a person and their lifestyle beginning at a very young age.

Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, is when the body does not produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone used that is released after eating. This hormone helps use or store sugar in the body, according to the American Diabetes Association.

With a condition such as diabetes, Bates has to carefully monitor his blood sugar. When blood sugar gets too high or low, it can become very dangerous for him, and could lead to other health concerns, such as neuropathy, high blood pressure, an increased risk of stroke, etc.

“I don’t get to do as many activities, per se. If I am playing baseball or soccer or something like that, and my blood sugar is like 400 then I have to sit out for the game or practice,” Bates said.

With plans on trying out for the baseball team this upcoming spring for North, he believes that his diabetes makes it harder, due to the constant concern about blood sugar.

Bates doesn’t have to monitor his blood sugar on his own. To help monitor his blood sugar, Bates has a service dog, a Doberman Foxhound mix, that goes with him everywhere. Her name is Hawkeye.

In order to get Hawkeye, Bates and his family had to “go through donations.” It was $7,500 for Hawkeye and then she had to go through special training before Bates could bring her home. Since then he’s had her for two years.

As a diabetic service dog, Hawkeye has been trained to sense and alert major changes in Bates’ blood sugar. In Type 1 diabetes, it is more difficult to tell when blood sugar is dramatically changing. Using their sense of smell, specially trained dogs can alert their owner when their blood sugar is too high or too low. However, a service dog does not replace checking blood sugar regularly– it is a precaution.

Hawkeye is able to detect 20% change in under 15 minutes, which can make a big difference when it comes to Bates’ diabetes. To alert Bates, Hawkeye whines and bumps his hand to let him know.

Through the various times that Bates has been alerted, he knows that he needs to test his blood sugar levels and work to resolve the problem as soon as possible.

However, going to school every day can be difficult, especially going to school every day with a service dog.

“[Having a service dog at school] is not the easiest thing to do. It’s not easy at all, actually,” Bates said in regards to Hawkeye.

” Having to [leave class] five minutes early, I end up missing actually a ton of class because I have to take her out.”

In the hallways and at stores, Bates gets a variety of mixed reactions among people regarding Hawkeye. He said that some people worry that the dog will hurt them. In response, Bates said that he just laughs.

“She’s just a service dog, she’s not going to do nothing,” Bates said.

When he hears people make comments about his service dog he said that he just wants them to ignore it and “pretend the dog’s not here.”

Even with the struggles of bringing Hawkeye to school, she really helps Bates. They have built a close relationship with each other. Their relationship is so strong that Hawkeye can’t be without him due to “separation issues.”

“We’ve grown on each other. She always comes first.”