Tuesday, April 24, 2018

TEAM TUX UPDATE: Service Dog for Cortisol Detection

As you may know, I have a service dog to detect low cortisol.

Tux alerted me that I needed meds on Saturday. I got my emergency kit. While I held it and unzipped it, he nosed his way into it and grabbed the bottle of hydrocortisone with his front teeth!! We have never trained for this: never used saliva samples and never played any scent games. He couldn't pull the bottle out because it was packed tightly among three boxes of Solu-Cortef. I'll reconfigure so he can do what he needs to do!! Another VICTORY for Team Tux.

Off and on, when I remembered, I would put him into SIT position, let him smell my breath before taking any stress dose hydrocortisone or my daily prednisolone doses, let him smell the medicine in the bottle while I repeated the name to him and why I use it, then I would place the HC under my tongue and let him smell again. I always ask him to "Let me know when I need this hydrocortisone. You are so smart, and I know you can help me." 🐾 🐶

Angela Boswell, our trainer with Service Dogs Express, told me to name the meds as I take them. So I did, again, as I remembered, and here we are. Monica, a fellow Cushie/BLAer/ service dog handler, describes a game they played: "We play "find the hydro," which is based on what we learned in nose work class. I hide my bottle of hydrocortisone in different places around the room and give the command "find the hydro! Then Dubly goes off to find it. When he brings it to me, he gets a treat. This will ensure that I can send him to get the medication no matter where it is."

—Team Tux was founded on March 19, 2017. Tux accompanied me to the Adrenal Insufficiency United conference one year later, an absolute dream dog with excellent public training. We have never used scent samples. We didn't buy a pedigreed pup from a breeder. Tux was a rescue found on the streets. After one year, I bet we have only spent $3,000 including adoption fee of $300 and weekly training visits. Tux began alerting three months after we got him. Getting a service dog to detect low cortisol and associated symptoms (low blood sugar, rapid heart rate) is possible. Go for it. 🐾

PS Tux has two handlers. He also alerts to my husband, a type 1 diabetic for 30 years).

PS2 We have been delighted with our trainers Angela Boswell and Mark Palmer and the program with www.ServiceDogExpress.com. They train handlers over Skype, FaceTime, and Facebook Messenger video. I have a FAQ post percolating that will outline how we got started, what we did, and how we work with the trainers, which i hope to finish soon.