Diabetes warning dog: How a dog changed a girl’s life forever


LEYDEN, Mass. (WWLP) – After a two-year wait, a young college student now has a four-legged friend who especially loves Hallmark movies and the outdoors to keep company, but most importantly is to keep her safe.

In October, Julia Duprey was introduced to a new best friend named Pretzel. The Pretzel is a 14-month-old diabetes alert dog that is a service dog that helps people with diabetes detect dangerously low or high blood sugar levels.

In 2004, at the age of 6, Julia was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which means that Julia’s body can’t produce insulin or produces very little. This left her unable to control her blood sugar, which could be life-threatening.

November is diabetes awareness month and Julia spoke to 22News about her story to spread awareness.

“Diabetes alert dogs are trained primarily by scent,” says Duprey. Diabetic alert dogs are trained to decode and detect glucose levels by the scent emanating from the owner’s breath and palm. These special scents are what allow Pretzel to detect Julia’s levels and alert her. A sweet or fruity scent indicates Julia’s levels are high, and sweat indicates her levels are low.

“Yea, no, she is not only like my lifeline, she is like a best friend and companion. She sleeps in my bed every night, she actually sleeps with me and my cat, it’s the cutest thing ever,” Duprey said. The process of getting a diabetes alert dog takes a lot of patience, but it’s something Julia is truly grateful for. Julia has been on the waiting list for two years and during that time she has raised funds and asked for support from her community.

Diabetic warning dogs are expensive and range from $5k to $10k and unfortunately insurance doesn’t cover it. “I received the full Pretzel through GoFundMe donations. I’ve received donations from friends, family, and really a bunch of strangers I don’t even know, it’s the kindness of strangers that’s remarkable,” Duprey said. Thankfully, after raising enough funds Julia was able to adopt Pretzel through a service dog company called CAR.

GoFundMe . page

CARES . Feast in Kansas was a special day that marked not a happy ending, but a happy beginning for Julia and Pretzel. “It was so emotional and my mom and I started crying because it was so emotional and the coach got her to her feet and I bent down and hugged her really tight,” Duprey said.

Before Pretzel, Julia had to depend on Dexcom, a leg device that monitored her blood sugar levels and sent updates to her phone throughout the day. Julia says it’s not very accurate, but now thanks to Pretzel, she doesn’t have to worry anymore. “Back at Airbnb, I had low blood sugar and she stayed by my side for two hours while I was recovering. My mother and I sat there and cried thinking ‘Oh my God, this is going to have life!’ This was the best decision for me,” Duprey said.

When Diabetes Alert Dogs detect a change in blood glucose levels, they detect the owner in different ways. Julia says: “She really looks at you and sometimes she might come close to you and she might bark. What we do with the training is if I’m tall or short, we say “Test Pretzel!”

Julia encourages others with Type 1 Diabetes to get a dog like Pretzel because it has made a huge difference in the lives of her and her parents. Now that she has Pretzel, she can move into her college dorm and not have to worry about fainting or falling asleep during a low or high glucose alert. “I love Pretzel with all my heart and I am so happy to have her,” Duprey said.

For those who want to update Pretzel and Julia check out Instagram or Facebookand if you’re interested in donating to help pay for Pretzel’s needs, visit GoFundMe. Diabetes warning dog: How a dog changed a girl’s life forever


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