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Hayven Chase and Sentinel -The Diabetes Alert Dog

HAYVEN & SCENTINEL, THE DIABETES ALERT DOG

18-year-old Hayven Chase is a busy student at Timberlake High in the north Idaho town of Athol.

The high school senior is a member of the local Future Farmers of America chapter and was also a finalist in the High School Discussion Meet competition held by the Young Farmers & Ranchers of Idaho. And she’s loved horses since she was a little girl.

“I started riding at my aunt’s ranch when I was about 5 years old, so I’ve obsessed with them ever since I was little. And so, I’ve always been known as kind of the horse crazy girl,” said Hayven Chase.

Hayven also competes as a Rodeo Queen and plans to pursue an agricultural business degree at the University of Idaho this fall.

“There’s so many different opportunities having an ag business degree, there’s so many different pathways that I can go to,” said Hayven.

Almost ten years ago, she got some news that would change her life.

“I was diagnosed at eight years old with Type 1 diabetes, and I really had no idea what it was. I knew that my cousin had it, but I didn’t know what would go into it,” said Hayven.

“It was just devasting to think that our that our daughter was going to have to deal with this 24/7. And she’s just… you don’t know… the whole world and how you look at it kind of changes. You don’t know what her prospects are,” said Hayvens mother Roxxane Chase.

 It was pretty much a life changing event and I had to learn a lot of different things, but it’s made me into who I am today,” said Hayven.

“Hayven said… and she was eight she’s like, well, God never gives me anything I can’t handle. And that’s been her attitude throughout the whole thing,” said Reed Chase.

“My parents and me have always discussed about me having a service dog and the reason being is when I’m asleep at night I don’t wake up to my low blood sugars, which can be not a good thing,” said Hayven.

Some people with type 1 diabetes wake up on their own when their blood sugar levels get low, but Hayven doesn’t. Low blood sugar levels can cause seizures and in rare cases, even death.

For years her parents would keep on eye on her continuous blood glucose monitor when she was asleep.

“We’d actually take shifts to watch her blood sugars at night, so we kind of always felt like she would need a different failsafe,” said Roxanne.

 That’s where Scentinel comes in.

“Scentinel is trained to alert me to my low and high blood sugars. They haven’t been able to detect exactly what they smell, but the dogs smell it off of your breath,” saud Hayven.

“He can alert me 20 to 30 minutes before my continuous glucose monitor does, and having that extra time helps me get ahead of it. He’s actually helped prevent me from some critical lows. Which… every diabetic’s different but for me typically when my blood sugar goes low I crash really hard.

When I’m in bed he actually jumps on top of me to wake me up because I’m a very hard sleeper.

I actually got to pick his name which I was really excited about, and I chose Sentinel because it’s a guard standing watch and that’s his job, but we did a little play on words, and we actually use the word “scent” in it because he uses his sense of smell to alert me,” said Hayven.

“Good alert, good boy.  Let me look…  good alert. Very good boy.”

“Anytime he alerts me he’s rewarded with a treat. And he really does know that it’s his job, at school he knows that he’s working, he knows that he has a job to do, he’s not really distracted by anything. But when he comes home, and I take the vest off he’s a bit more of dog. He still knows that he has a job to do but he’ll play with his toys and be more of a puppy at home.”

They got Scentinel from Lily Grace Service Dogs in Sandpoint, Idaho. Normally a specially bred and fully trained service dog can cost anywhere between 25 and 35-thousand dollars. The local horse community helped the family raise money, and they were also able to get Scentinel for much less because they took part in a pilot program where they got Scentinel when he was just 12 weeks old, and did much of the training themselves.

“We really are extremely fortunate the Lily Grace chose Hayven and she also close another local kid to do the pilot program,” said Roxxane.

“Her passion is that every diabetic should be able to train their own alert dog, and be able to find the right puppy and train their dog to have them because she’s a true believer that every type 1 diabetic should have one,” said Reed.

“The trainer did some work with them, at 3 days old they were introduced to different scents to get them using their nose,” said Hayven. “Of course, their eyes weren’t open yet and they weren’t moving around much but having those scents in their pen taught them how to use their nose and develop neural pathways to help them better their sense  of smell.

And she sent us videos on how to train the dog and we did evaluations with her to see if there were any gaps in our training anything that we needed to work on.”

Scentinel was trained by learning to detect the difference between low, normal and high blood sugar levels through breath and saliva samples from Hayven in little tins with holes in them. He gets a reward or “treat” when alerting to a low or high level, and sits and paws her to let her know.

By six months old he was actually going to school with me full time, and there were still some things that we were working on but he was considered a fully trained service dog at six months old,” said Hayven.

“He is a Golden Labradoodle, so his mom is a Golden Doodle and his dad is a full blooded Labrador. And the Reason why Lily Grace did that was the golden doodle is a loving, very well-mannered family-oriented dog and the Lab gives the drive to alert, to have a job,” said Reed.

“One thing that I actually have been training him to do is he can retrieve a juice box for me because sometimes when my blood sugar is really low I’m very weak and I don’t feel like I can get up and go get something to treat my blood sugar, so he’s been trained to that, and he also is being trained to alert me while I’m on my horse, so that a couple different thing that we’re working on him with because there’s so many different things that he’ll be able to do that’ll help me even further than what he already does,” said Hayven.

Scentinel even has his own Facebook page called Standing Watch with Scentinel the Diabetic Alert Dog.

“You know there’s just so many people that helped us with this journey we wanted to let them see his progress,” said Roxxane.

“It was amazing to watch how she inspired other people with hidden diseases and with diabetes to say hey, this isn’t going to stop me. I can do something too and I can be this person or I can be a roceo queen or I can be a barrel racer or whatever you want to do, you’re able to do it. Who’s going to stop me. So it’s been really fun as a father to watch that happen,” said Reed.

“It’s actually really great to have him because I know I have someone there with me. My parents can’t always be with me for the rest of my life and so having a dog here that can help me and does alert me is really great.,” said Hayven.

For the Voice of Idaho Agriculture, I’m Paul Boehlke.

About the author

Paul Boehlke