Friday, July 15, 2011

Dear Dixie,

My Dearest Dixie,

Do you still remember when we met? I was nervous. I had never spent much time around big dogs before you. I had dreams of what I hoped you would do for me, but scared that it was too much to dream for. I think that you were just as nervous about meeting me as I was about meeting you.

Even though I had waited about a year to finally meet you, the couple weeks before I finally went to North Dakota that August seemed to whiz by. I started to have real doubts about what I was doing. What on earth was I thinking? How would I be able to manage having a dog with me every day at work? How would my friends react to me being connected to a big, furry companion all that time? What if I was expecting the impossible? What if this didn’t work?

I needed it to work. So I packed up three weeks of stuff and went to North Dakota.

You were little. At 42 pounds, you looked like a little puppy compared to all of the other big dogs that were at Great Plains. The trainer brought you to me after I spent time working with other dogs. I know it sounds cliche, but the minute I saw you, I knew you were the one. You carried yourself with such grace. I could tell that you were not full of yourself. You were confident, but very reserved.

We spent the first afternoon working on basic obedience drills. Then we were to watch a video. I asked you to lay down and stay. About 15 minutes into the video, you stood up. I asked you to lay down. You stared at me. I asked you to lay down. You took your paw and lifted it, letting it drag down my thigh. I thought I should probably check my blood sugar. I did, and I was 68. I won’t forget that number. The second the meter beeped, you lied down at my feet and sighed. I ran to the trainer to tell what had just happened. You caught my first low! And after I pet you and said, “yay, Dixie” you looked at me, as if you were saying, “ok, so that’s what you want to know! I get it!”

The first night I brought you back to the little house to spend the night, I worried. It was raining. You didn’t want to eat anything. You hid under a twin bed while I slept. But while I slept, I felt your paw slide down my back. I woke up and tested. I was low again. You knew.

I spent the next three weeks training with you. Some days we worked at Great Plains, and other days we went to the nearby larger town to work on your public access skills. It was exhausting work, but by the end of the three weeks, we were a team.

It took me a while to understand you. Thank you for being patient with my “human-ness” during that time. You knew what you were doing. I was the one who had a lot of learning to do. It took time for me to believe in you. In hindsight, I wish that I could have just trusted you. Instead, I spent time doubting you. It was so scary to believe that a dog could understand what was going on in my body so much better than I could. And so I, mistakenly, spent too much time trying to catch you missing lows. So that I could prove to my cognitive mind that you were “just a dog.”

Oh, Dixie. You aren’t just a dog. You’re a server. You put me above all else. You make living with diabetes so much easier. You have become quite picky about the range that you want my blood sugars to be in. You quietly do your job every minute of every day. You save me.

People used to question that you really worked. I would get half-smiles from people who pretended to believe. That used to bother me in the beginning. Now I just smile. Because I know what you do, and the people who really know you see what you do, and that’s all that counts.

When I reflect on what my life was like before you, I don’t want to go back. I don’t take the time that I have with you for granted. I believe in you. I trust you.

Oh, Dixie. I love you. More than I ever thought I could. I am blessed.

Thank you, Dixie. You are my shining star.



shannon said...

oh, what a beautiful post. thank you so much for sharing.

Brenda F. Bell said...

Brought tears to my eyes. Yay, service animals!

kim said...

i had never thought of service dogs for diabetics. i had heard of them for epileptics and such and so was amazed by Dixie.
i told my husband that i "needed" my own Dixie! i rarely feel lows anymore, so i am seriously considering looking into service dogs in my area. thanks for sharing dixie with us!

Scott K. Johnson said...

Love this post Molly. Dixie is one incredible friend. Having seen her in action, I have no doubts whatsoever in her talents. You are lucky to have such a great teammate.

Minnesota.Ann said...

Thank you Molly for saying everything so well. This month marks 2 years with my DAD, Lily. Although my story is different since I trained her myself... It is so much the same. The worries of how others would "view" my having/needing a service dog. The worries that others do not believe it is real. My spending so much time initially trying to catch her missing lows and not believing that she really really gets it. I also will never forget the first alert in a Fleet Farm that made me believe and trust her.

I too never want to go back to my life before Lily watched over me and my crazy blood sugars.

Thank you for your eloquent way of saying what is in my heart and making me cry the good kind of cry.

Minnesota Nice said...

Miracles do happen.

Bob Fenton said...

Thank you for this positive post on your diabetes alert dog. This is what is needed for those that are hypoglycemically unaware. It is posts like this that do more for letting people know that these dogs really do work and besides being good companions are lifesavers as well.

KB said...


What a beautiful post about Dixie! Thank you for being such a wonderful advocate for Service Dogs and sharing what Dixie can help you with! Your blog is well done!

I loved too the post of Dixie's alerting you below. That post is a wonderful opportunity for people that don't have contact with a wonderful service dog like yours to 'see' how it works!

You have a treasure in Dixie, and I'm sure she feels the same way about you.

Keep up advocating and sharing your knowledge and experience. You never know what an impact your sharing will have on others - diabetic or not.

Thanks for posting!

Sarah said...

This was beautiful! My daughter was dx @ 9mos and we have a DAD too. We love her!