- Associated Press - Monday, August 18, 2014

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (AP) - Bridgette Hunter is anxious most of the time.

Her heart beats rapidly and her hands begin to shake as soon as her son, Devan Buss, starts to have a hypoglycemic episode.

During severe episodes, his eyes will glaze over and his speech will slur, or he won’t be able to speak at all. That’s when Hunter fumbles for his Glucagon (an emergency kit for low blood sugar), knowing full well that without it, the Type 1 diabetes he has is enough to take his life.

Hunter is hoping to rest a little easier, though, now that their family has welcomed a new addition to the family. Akio is a black lab who will be trained to care for Buss, 17, through companionship and alertness to diabetic-induced abnormalities.

“It’s very overwhelming, when you love your child so much and want to have things so much easier for them, but it’s never going to change,” Hunter said.

Michelle Monson knows the feeling. Brendan Monson is a 14-year-old who also suffers from Type 1 diabetes. Together with Happy Tails Dog Park, the families are hosting a run/walk at the dog park Saturday to help defray the cost of training.

“Without the community support, we couldn’t do this for our children,” Michelle said.

Akio, a 5-month-old puppy, and Riley, who is 14 weeks old, are in the midst of training at emBARK Dog Day Care in Eau Claire. Heather Mishefske, a certified dog trainer, leads the pack in training sessions. She gleans advice from Virginia-based Type 1 diabetes sufferer Melody Butler Daniels, who trained her own alert dog.

The two families had considered purchasing already-trained puppies, but the cost hovers around $20,000 and doesn’t guarantee a fit with its owners.

“There’s a bond they get when you train your own,” Hunter said.

Neither Brendan nor Buss were born with diabetes.

Brendan’s diagnosis came when he was five years old. Tell-tale signs of type 1, including increased urination and thirst, indicated to Michelle that there was an issue.

“I had a father with Type 1,” she said. “I knew (Brendan) was hypoglycemic and I could smell the ketones.”

After a period of his doctor refusing to test Brendan, saying that it would be too uncomfortable for Brendan, he was diagnosed.

“I ran into a stranger at Walmart who had a service dog,” she said. “I saw the dog and instantly started bawling.”

Story Continues →