How dogs can help diabetics

by BEVERLY KEMP, Daily Mail

Graeme Quinn, 39, is a diabetic. In 1999, he had his lower right leg amputated as a result of an infection caused by a diabetic ulcer. Graeme is divorced and lives in Sheffield with Perry, a 19-month-old golden retriever who has been his support dog since March 2000. He says:

After I'd had my leg amputated, I was left with severely restricted mobility. Everyday tasks such as having a shower would take ages. But before my prosthesis was fitted last September, I sometimes just had to crawl about or rely on the support of chairs.

The idea of applying for a support dog occurred to me when I saw a black labrador helping a lady with mobility problems in my local supermarket. I went over and asked her where she got him from, and she explained about Support Dogs.

Perry came to live with me in March 2000, although by then we knew each other well as we'd started the training programme together six months previously. I'm blind in one eye and partially sighted in the other, and my balance is poor. If I bend down I'm in danger of toppling over, so Perry picks things up for me if I drop them.

He's also trained to fetch my medication bag, which contains my insulin. He might be fast asleep, but the moment I tell him I need it, he jumps up and gets it for me.

If I didn't have Perry, I would avoid busy places. Not only is he a great help but he also acts as a signal. It isn't immediately obvious that I'm disabled, but now people tend to give me plenty of room on the pavement and are more patient at supermarket checkouts.

Going out has become a more pleasant and sociable experience because Perry is a real icebreaker. I end up talking to about 20 strangers every time I go into town.

He's a different dog when he has his jacket on. He can be a bit giddy when we're at home relaxing, whereas when he's working he is very calm and controlled.

Perry is very protective when I go for hospital appointments. I'm also a renal patient and my mother helps me with my dialysis at home. Whenever she's about to put the needles into my arm, Perry always leaves the room.

Perhaps it's because he's seen the expression on my face. It's almost as if he knows that it's going to hurt me and doesn't want to be around to see it.

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