September 11, 2012

24-hour dog takes adjustment

By DR. JONATHAN BEACH, Ask The Diabetes Doctor

---- — Now that I am nearly five months into my new life with my diabetic-alert dog Banting, I thought it would be appropriate to update the readers on our progress. 

I grew up with many dogs, so I initially felt this would be rather simple. Well, having a dog with you 24 hours a day, seven days a week is a huge change. Folks often tell me it is like having another child. I feel that a puppy is much better at getting into trouble than any child. Much like a child, the puppy does tend to slow me down, and of course, every building you go into should start with a bathroom break to avoid disasters.

From the diabetes standpoint, Banting is amazing. Having dealt with this disease for more then 30 years, there are not many treatments that I find impressive. The diabetic-alert dog however, is very impressive. I have had Banting alert me to many blood-sugar changes well before I would have noticed, and often he is so persistent that I check my sugar and treat much more efficiently. He works out very well in the office and has even alerted some patients. I am working with him to bring me my blood meter on command, and he has gone so far as to bring it to me randomly to get me to test when the sugar is changing.


Concerning daily activities, Banting seems to have adjusted very well. He loves to hike and boat, and he did very well camping this summer. Being a Labrador retriever, he loves to swim. He is rather comfortable with the meetings I attend as a Clinton County legislator. It seems that the busier the activity, the more comfortable and relaxed he is.

Our most recent adventure was Banting’s first flight. Although an interesting event, the most difficult segment was security. I took the time to remove everything from my pockets, as well as all metal objects. As I was brought to the metal detector, they asked if I was able to remove Banting’s collar and leash. When I explained that most likely he would be fine, but being a puppy, he might want to visit people, they allowed him to keep it on. It wasn’t surprising that the detector went off as he went through. However, as I followed him, the alarm remained silent. Their decision was since he set the alarm off, we both had to be patted down. So I was taken to a nice central location where all travelers could watch as we were patted down and released. Thankfully, on the way home, the security folks felt it was appropriate to pat him down since he set the alarm off and I did not.


When I made the ticket reservations, I was careful to make it clear that we had a service dog with us. The airline policy is to make accommodations for a service animal to have adequate space. Unfortunately, on the first leg of the trip, there were no such options available. We spent about two hours with Banting on our laps. Thankfully, the remainder of the trip was uneventful, as we were able to move to bulkhead seating. Banting slept for the majority of the trip.

The only other issue was secure pet-relief areas. Unfortunately, none of the airports we visited had any space for pets that was secure. I asked various attendants about options and was told I could go outside by security. I had to explain with only 45 minutes between flights there was no way I could go through security again. I had consulted the trainer ahead of time and limited Banting’s intake, but we still had to be careful.

My recommendations for travel are to make sure the airline is aware of the service dog and check when you arrive so seats can be moved if necessary. Be very careful with food and water, and be prepared for accidents en route. Lastly, be prepared for many questions, and make sure you are aware of the laws and airline policies. 

Most importantly, have a great and safe trip.

Dr. Jonathan Beach, who has lived with diabetes himself since age 4, heads the Northeast Center for Diabetes Care and Education at Urgicare of the Northeast in Plattsburgh. Send questions for this column, which runs the second Tuesday of every month, to: Features Editor, P.O. Box 459, Plattsburgh, NY 12901 or email