Type 1 Training - Zuko the Service Dog
Team Member: Cynthia Cottrell
Heather Morris wrote -
Imagine going to sleep on a seemingly dull and generic night only to -what seems like moments later- snap awake in a cold sweat practically incapacitated, only able to scream and repeatedly strike a wall for someone’s attention. You now have a glimpse of what existence has been like for the last seven years of my life. While others struggled with the normal strives of puberty I was thrown into the midst of a seemingly unwinnable war- chronic illness. Most girls worried about covering up their acne, me? I had to hide the marks from my insulin injections that coated my body. That’s what life as a teen, Type 1 diabetic felt like.
If you ask an athlete what their greatest fear is many will tell you: being sidelined. At age 12 I was sidelined from my day to day life. Diabetes is an illness that makes previously effortless tasks burdensome. Every waking hour is dedicated to perpetually monitoring blood sugars, counting carbs, calculating dosages, and giving injections. I did what preteens do best: I rebelled. I made myself believe that I wasn’t sick, I gave myself a false sense of freedom, and I suffered. High blood sugars sent me to the E.R. and low blood sugars left me immobile. My athletic pursuits became increasingly difficult and I had no more energy for anything other than carrying myself around. I took myself right out of the moment. It wasn’t until my sixth trip to the E.R. that I got my first sense of self-reproach.
After seeing my mother sob over her inability to assist me in my ever-present battle with my own body I decided to take action. I reached out for help from her, my teachers, and my doctor. I became more resilient. When I went through days or even weeks of working with my old habits it took only a slight reminder for me to bounce back. I became exposed to the beauty of persistence. I learned to work through the difficult obstacles in front of me which allowed me to thrive athletically and academically. I learned to rely on myself as well as others. Most importantly I allowed my illness to be a part of me without defining me or holding me back.
Now in college, with the assistance of scholarships, I was able to save enough money to obtain a dog to be trained as a service animal. He is currently four months old and already well into his advanced obedience. In two short months he will begin his Medical Alert dog training at a local facility. Money donated will go directly to his training, his new service dog vest, and his neuter. Insurance does not cover this medical necessity - he will be trained to monitor my blood sugar level and alert when it is too high or low. Some people have a guardian angel, mine happens to have four paws.