Buddies Ellie Hart and Peyton Bruce have a lot in common: Both are 10, both live in Turlock and both have Type 1 diabetes. There's one thing they don't have in common: Ellie has a diabetes service dog; Peyton does not
Ellie wants to fix that.
Ellie, diagnosed in 2015, was the recipient of a community fundraising effort that resulted in her getting Poppy, a yellow lab that is specially trained to alert when Ellie's blood sugar levels go awry.
"It's another tool," said Ellie's mom, Emily Hart. "We have all the technology but nothing is foolproof."
The Harts are leading a fundraising drive to help Peyton, who was diagnosed with Type 1 on her sixth birthday, get her own service dog.
Peyton was Ellie's first "diabetes friend". The two met after Ellie was diagnosed.
"The doctor had us meet," Emily Hart said. "Our families have become close."
Once Ellie got her service dog, Peyton's family became interested in securing one for her, too.
Poppy is cute and fluffy, with her bright eyes and wagging tail, but she is very much a working dog. Her vest warns passers-by against petting her; when she's around Ellie, her entire focus is on the girl's well-being. As Ellie was taking part in a walkathon for Peyton at Pitman High School recently, Poppy "alerted" to a problem with Ellie's blood sugar by barking.
She's not always that obvious, Emily Hart said. Sometimes Poppy will alert by pawing Ellie. But in a crowd like the one at Pitman, Poppy knows she needs to get attention.
The care and training for dogs like Poppy isn't cheap; the Harts are hoping to raise $25,000 to bring a dog to Peyton. That pays for the dog, two years of intensive training, and then a trainer to come out to the Bruce home and help the family learn to work with the dog.
"I'm really excited about getting a dog," Peyton said. "She'll help my numbers stay even."
The dog can alert to a problem before technology can sense anything is amiss, Emily Hart said. The dogs pick up an odor that humans can't smell.
"It's made (Ellie) a lot safer. It's made her a lot healthier."
So far, the walkathon and a yard sale have brought in about $7,000. That has been enough to put down a deposit on a dog out of the firm in Indiana that trains them. Peyton's supporters have a year to bring in the rest of the money.
Emily Hart warns of one drawback to having a service dog: It alerts to everyone's blood sugar. Poppy will point out to healthy people when their sugar levels drop.
"My mom says that every time she comes to visit us she gains weight," Emily Hart said. "Poppy will tell her to eat, so she eats."
Donations may be made at Peyton's YouCaring site.