Dog can guard girl from dangers within

Family is raising funds for a diabetic alert service animal

By Maecy Enger, Columbian Staff Reporter

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Learn more

• For more information about Guardian Angel Service Dogs, call Sue Kindred, 972-978-6243.

• For tickets to the Aug. 24 mini-golf fundraiser, contact Heidi Timm, timm.heidi@gmail.com.

A new dog will change Bekah Timm’s life and could one day save it.

Bekah was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in March 2010, when she was 6 years old. Heidi Timm, her mother, said every family struggles when a child is diagnosed with diabetes.

“It’s like bringing home a newborn who never grows up,” Timm said.

Recently, Heidi Timm heard about service dogs specifically bred to detect blood-sugar levels. The Vancouver family hopes to receive a diabetic alert service dog for Bekah. The family is raising funds because of the $15,000 cost of the highly trained dog.

These diabetic alert service dogs are bred with scent recognition. When an individual’s blood sugar level changes, it changes the body’s scent — which allows a trained dog to detect a problem.

Bekah, who soon will turn 8, has to check her blood sugar at least 10 times a day. It could escalate when she is older if she develops hypoglycemic unawareness, in which a person can’t feel whether their blood sugar levels are low or high, a typical problem for those with long-standing Type 1 diabetes.

Heidi Timm believes the dog will be a backup during the night if Bekah doesn’t sense her blood sugar levels changing. As she grows up, it may be hard for Bekah to maintain a regimented schedule. As a mother who worries about her kids, Timm feels it’s good to have a dog to be there to “tattle” on Bekah if she forgets.

The Timms will get the dog from Warren Retrievers, which breeds dogs with scent recognition for diabetics of all types. After the puppies are born, the group tests the dogs at 9 days old for the scent recognition.

“You want to know that it’s bred for its job,” Timm said.

If the dog is found to have this trait, it is matched with a family who fits its personality. The dog must not only have training as a service dog but also have scent-recognition training to detect blood-sugar levels.

Guardian Angel Service Dogs is a nonprofit philanthropic arm of Warren Retrievers and helps with public awareness and funding. Families who are trying to raise money for these service dogs can work with Guardian Angel to raise funds in their community.

Sue Kindred, executive director of Guardian Angel, said many people have disabilities that keep them from participating in normal activities, but a service dog changes that.

“People get their lives back,” Kindred said.

Heidi Timm has worked with this group to pay for the dog and its training. She and the family have hosted a community garage sale and raised more than $2,000. They also plan to do car washes, and a mini-golf tournament Aug. 24 at the Steakburger in Hazel Dell.

The Timm family has been matched with its puppy and should receive it by the end of July. Bekah will name it Sarah. The puppy should arrive on her eighth birthday.