At first glance, Duncan the Golden Retriever is just being a fantastic host. His dad’s friend comes to visit, so being the hospitable golden he is, he brings her a nice cold juice box fresh from the fridge.
But there is so much more to this pup than meets the eye.
Duncan’s juice box delivery is actually a life-saving trained reaction to his handler’s low blood sugar. His human has Type 1 Diabetes, and Duncan is a Diabetic Alert Dog. Duncan has been specially trained to sense when his dad’s blood sugar is out of the healthy range. When it’s time to check glucose, Duncan gives his dad a gentle boop. When his dad’s blood sugar gets too low, dad gets a juice box!
In the gif above, Duncan has sensed that his dad’s friend, Mandy, had low blood sugar. She’s not diabetic, but has struggled with hypoglycemia in the past. So he did what he’d been trained to do: in Mandy’s words, “you smell that way that Dad isn’t supposed to smell like… Here’s a juice.”
We reached out to this amazing pup’s dad, Ron, and he was kind enough to share his and Duncan’s story with us!
Like many service dogs, Duncan was raised and trained with the help of an amazing group of volunteers. He started his service dog journey with Eyes Ears Nose & Paws, a non-profit organization in Carrboro, NC that specializes in training and placing service dogs with the humans who need them.
Duncan trained for two years with EENP, spending quality time with volunteers and mastering his most important skills. He learned all there is to know about being a well-behaved service-pup-about-town, from polite leash-walking to calmly settling in movie theaters and restaurants. (Parents of toddlers: jealous much?!). When it came time for Duncan to be placed with a human, his trainers worked tirelessly to find the best possible fit.
That’s when Duncan met his human, Ron.
Ron has been a Type 1 Diabetic for over 30 years, diagnosed at the age of 2 and a half. In Ron’s words, being diabetic can feel like a full-time job. He’s experienced episodes of hypoglycemia unawareness—a reduced ability to sense a drop in his blood sugar, which can lead to dangerous lows. He needed a way to improve his ability to manage the disease. Ron’s mother had heard about Diabetic Alert Dogs, and suggested he look into getting one (PSA: listen to your mothers, kids!). To Ron, this sounded like “the best of both worlds; a dog to call my own, but one that could help keep me safe and let me know of dangers I could no longer feel coming on.”
Ron’s awesome friends and coworkers stepped up to help him cover the cost of his new Diabetic Alert Dog, and he started working with EENP to find a good fit. In Ron’s words:
…about 7 months prior to having [Duncan] placed with me, I pretty much fell in love with him during my interview with his trainer.
The two bonded instantly.
Duncan’s trainers began tailoring his training to his future with Ron. Diabetic Alert Dogs are trained with scent, so Ron was instructed to provide saliva samples at different blood sugar levels—this is how Duncan knows when to alert his dad to check his glucose.
In addition to being absurdly adorable, Duncan’s alert boops have helped Ron better manage his diabetes. The “juice box retrieve” seen in Duncan’s now-viral video helps Ron bring up his blood sugar level when it gets too low—a response that has saved Ron’s life:
“There was one night where my blood sugar had really dropped out on me very quickly in the middle of the night. I could not stop shaking… leaving me stuck in bed. Duncan went to the fridge and grabbed a juice box for me. I was able to get it down and come back to some normalcy. When I was able to stand up and get to my kit, I tested and my blood sugar was 37 after drinking the juice (which is a REALLY low blood sugar) … I’m always grateful to have him at my side, but words cannot express how thankful I was to have him with me that night.”
Even though Duncan is instrumental in helping his dad manage his health, Duncan’s life is definitely not all work. His dad tells us Duncan absolutely loves to play fetch, and has no qualms about showing it! He’ll even go so far as opening the closet door with his nose—where his toys are kept—to “let [his dad] know what he wants.”
Of course, we had to ask Ron: Does Duncan know what a good boy he is?
His answer says it all:
“He does! …I think he can sense I’m truly appreciative of his hard work in helping to keep me safe and healthy. We have a very strong bond and I know he loves to work and be engaged.”
Great job, pup! You are a true hero!
You can follow Duncan’s many adventures on his Facebook.