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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : latest news : latest news September 15, 2014

4/15/2012 11:26:00 PM
Boy's best friend
Quake helps Jake keep diabetes at bay
Karen Despain
The Daily Courier

No matter where Jake Seff goes, his faithful canine companion, Quake, is sure to be in tow - on scent alert.

Because Jake is a diabetic, Quake knows to always be at his side in case his scent tells her that his blood sugar level is rising or falling and needs a meter reading.

"Quake goes everywhere I go," Jake said. "She rides the bus, she goes to school, and when I am on my bike, she pouts" from a close-by vantage point. "She sleeps with me. She does everything with me."

Jake, 11, lives in Flagstaff with his mother Joan, father Jeff, and brother Zack, and of course, Quake, a yellow Labrador that has been his diabetic alert dog for the past eight months.

Jake and Quake will be part of the 26th Annual Diabetes Seminar from 8:15 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Adult Center of Prescott, 1280B E. Rosser St., in Prescott.

Doctors diagnosed Jake with diabetes when he was 6 years old. He lost weight, was excessively thirsty and "urinated like crazy," Joan said. Yet, his doctors continued treating him for his childhood asthma, believing that was the culprit and the symptoms were side effects of the prednisone he was taking. That was until Jake drank three big bottles of Gatorade one night. When Jake's doctor heard this, testing for diabetes immediately followed. His blood sugar was in the 600s, Joan said, well above the 80 to 150 range that is considered normal.

Jake was hospitalized on a Friday afternoon and was discharged the next Monday morning.

"When he left the hospital, he was administering his own insulin shots," Joan said, recalling his telling her, "I can do it, Mom." Jake now has an insulin pump to regulate his insulin dosage, which can vary with what he eats and with his activities.

"He's a normal, average kid," Joan said. "He loves school, his teacher, math and his dog."

When Jake saw a boy on television with a diabetic alert dog, he "bugged" his parents to have his own for a year, Joan said. She researched and found out about Scottsdale-based Power Paws Assistance Dogs, which trains golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers in 90 commands to assist adults and children with the spectrum of disabilities. Power Paws began training diabetic alert dogs a year and a half ago, said Meg Flynn, the organization's programs director.

Diabetic alert dogs "can detect 20 or 30 minutes ahead of the meter" a scent that their diabetic companion gives off, indicating low or high blood sugar content.

When Jake' blood sugar level reaches a low point, Quake nudges Jake and bows. When his level reaches a high point, Quake gives him a "high five." If Jake is asleep and doesn't respond, Quake goes and wakes Joan. Quake even knows how to open the refrigerator, get Jake a juice box and take it to him.

The diabetic alert dogs are trained to alert in a multitude of situations - while the diabetic is sleeping, driving or during sports, for example. They know how to get the diabetic's attention or someone else's, when necessary.

"Sometimes, clients won't believe the dog," Flynn said, adding this is common with kids who don't want to stop what they are doing to check their blood sugar levels.

One young boy was playing with his Wii, Flynn said, when the dog alerted. "He kept pushing the dog away until finally the dog grabbed the controller out of his hand as if to say, 'Do you get it now? Will you test?'"

"We want the dogs to be at least 80 percent accurate," which is comparable to the accuracy of meters, Flynn said, so they keep constant track of their alerts and ongoing training with their companions.

"It's a good thing I have diabetes," Jake said. "I can help educate others."

Jake, Quake and Power Paws' Flynn and executive director Robyn Abels will be at the seminar on Saturday, along with speakers on diabetes management, medications, kidney disease and care for children with type 1 diabetes.

Cost of the seminar is $12 for pre-registration and $15 at the door. This includes materials and lunch from Giovanni's. For more information or to register, call 1-888-diabetes, ext. 7085 or email jrobak@diabetes.org.

"Quake has changed my life in such a great way," Jake said. "She's a great companion to have around. She can tell me whether I am high or low."

Being a diabetic hasn't changed Jake much. "I still do everything I would have otherwise. I feel I have helped people who have diabetes who feel they can't do anything because they have diabetes."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Article comment by: Jewels Doskicz

Jake is an amazing young man, I've always been impressed by his positive, can do attitude. He is a shining example for others by living a healthy happy life with type 1 diabetes.

Posted: Monday, April 16, 2012
Article comment by: The Rev

Dogs: there is not a thing they cannot or will not do for us.

Posted: Monday, April 16, 2012
Article comment by: suzi bell higgins

That is so darn awesome. I love it. Good luck to both of you!

Posted: Monday, April 16, 2012
Article comment by: Eliza Tyler

GREAT STORY!!! Jake couldn't ask for a better service companion than Quake (I know, I too, have a yellow lab for spotting my lows). Keep up the positive outlook on life Jake, it will take you far and acts a teaching method for others!! Rock on Kid!! :)

Posted: Monday, April 16, 2012
Article comment by: Amazing Article

What an inspiring article. I hope all parents whose children would benefit from these live saving dogs have access to them. It would be interesting to learn more about how the dogs are trained. It's good that the medical community is looking into alternative methods to help patients lead healthier lives. Congratulations to Jake and Quake.

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