Mar 14, 2010


To update, this is what has happened so far.

We got a small boy. (He was followed by a small girl, who may occasionally appear in the blog, too. Usually as a distraction. A gorgeous distraction, may I add.)

The small boy got diabetes. This wasn't on our original to-do-list.

The small boy got in trouble with his lows.

We got a puppy. Not an easy task. After declining offers to buy mixed breed puppies straight from the airport in the middle of the night, we found a good breeder. She was willing to sell us one of her Havanese puppies a bit cheaper as the pup had a strong underbite, making her less likely to be the Crufts Supreme Champion. This was fine by us, as we're not really into shows anyway. Even if Molly would have been presentable enough, we would have been kicked out of any shows for being scruffy and untidy. We're students. Poor students. Poor students with children. Poor students with children and no sense of style. Enough said.
We chose this particular breed as I have some experience of Havaneses. They are also known to be extremely social, good with children (!!!!) and fairly intelligent (?). They are small dogs and relatively easy when it comes to grooming.

We searched for more information on D.A.Ds, or hypo-alert dogs, or hypodogs or diabetic assistance dogs, or whatever you want to call them. There is a lot of unofficial information online, news on research projects and discussion forums. DAD's are common in the States and considered as official assistant dogs. In the UK there are some hypodogs and experienced trainers. In Finland, the country we've managed to get stuck in, there is all of one official dog that is being trained as a hypodog. That dog is being trained in an institution and then handed 'ready' to a family of a small diabetic boy.

Concerning the training , the Americans are very quiet about their specific methods, which are supposedly 'groundbreaking' and 'unique'. This probably means they are fairly simple and executable by dog owners with the help of a trainer. But that would be quite unprofitable for the companies.
If you are considering training a hypodog, a good place to start is There are a lot of opinions on methods and particularly on the scent acquirement.

We searched for a dog trainer. And found a brilliant professional, experienced in scent training. She came to meet Molly and was greeted by a scared, shaky mess. It didn't look good. Molly was petrified of other people. Strangely, she was comfortable with children, even when there was twenty of them piled on top of her "stroking" the poor creature. But adults were huge, smelly and unpredictable. So the next step was to socialize Molly so we could at least leave the house without nervous vomiting by the post boxes.

It took a few weeks but now we have a pretty normal dog. She is comfortable with people, though a little cautious at first. She is so comfortable on public transport (we don't own a car) that the snoring begins as soon as she's curled up on the bus. I got her a carry bag which opens. It's easy to bring along and lift it on the seat next to me or on my lap, creating a safe haven anywhere. We also use it in cars, whenever we can get a lift somewhere. I secure the bag with the seat belt and the dog is safely tucked away, not pestering the driver or chewing on the handbrake. Nor would she fly through the windscreen if there was ever an accident.

Molly had her first private lesson on Friday and it looked promising. We had already begun clicker training before the lesson so she was familiar with it. I got a new clicker from the trainer, with a softer click, a lot nicer for the ears. With the help of the spanking new clicker and Molly's favourite treats, we've got as far as getting her to smell a jar. Which will eventually contain a saliva sample. Which will be collected from Eli. Who will happily stick cotton sheets in his mouth when he's hypo. Yeah, right.

We are only in the beginning and it's a loooong way before we can trust our loyal mop to wake us up in case of hypos. But there is no harm in trying. The worst case scenario is that Molly doesn't learn a thing and we end up with a pet. A pretty cute one, who loves the kids and who love her back. So it's not that bad.

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