Boy’s best friend
There’s no disputing that dog is man’s best friend.
That’s especially true when your dog can alert you to medical problems before they become lifethreatening.
Marek Rinehart is a 7-year-old boy from Chester Springs who loves dirt bikes, skateboarding, learning about U.S. military history and has aspirations of becoming a Marine. Marek also unfortunately has Type 1 Diabetes, an autoimmune disease that comes with a variety of other risks including the possibility of coma, seizures and organ failure associated with Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia.
“Up to eight times each day, and overnight, Marek must have blood taken from his fingertips and tested in a blood glucose meter,” said Victoria Rinehart, Marek’s mother. “He gets 180 shots a month and it’s amazing how well he’s done with it. He’s had to do things that most adults can’t deal with.”
Exercise, stress and illness can all affect the levels of glucose and sometimes it will change for no apparent reason at all, she said. Additionally, the FDA allows for a 20-percent margin of error in the number the meters report.
Having questioned the reliability of the meters, the Rineharts decided that they would go a different route when it came to monitoring Marek’s levels, and they are hoping to raise the money to get a diabetic alert dog for Marek to have by his side at all times.
“The people we know say they trust the dog over a pump for reliability. In a lot of cases the dog was correct over the monitor. I did a lot of research online for companies and options. You can have them trained based on your needs,” Rinehart said.
The dogs are trained to alert owners to any changes, high or low, in glucose levels of the blood up to a half an hour before the change becomes dangerous. In addition, they are also trained to alert someone if a handler becomes unresponsive and can also give the handler comfort during any painful procedures they endure related to Type 1 Diabetes.
The Rineharts are seeking a dog through Diabetic Alert Dogs of America, an organization that trains dogs extensively in identifying changes in a diabetic person’s glucose levels. The process works by identifying the specific needs of each applicant and matching them with a dog who is specifically trained for that purpose. Once the needs have been determined and the puppy is born, it is trained almost from birth to identify blood glucose level changes for their specific handler.
“His diabetic alert dog will be scent-imprinted to the chemical change that occurs in Marek’s body when he experiences Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia,” explained Rinehart. “This is done by sending samples of Marek’s saliva to the trainer to use with the dog. Other training Marek’s diabetic alert dog will receive is service including extensive obedience training and retrieval of Marek’s medication bag upon alert.”
Once the dog has been selected, the family receives updates and pictures of the dog until eventually training is complete and the trainer brings the dog to the family’s home. So far, the family has decided on a Weimaraner and Marek is hoping to name the dog Minecraft, after one of his favorite games.
“He’s really excited about it,” said Rinehart. “He’s the oldest of his siblings and they want the dog to come and help him because they’ve seen it and it’s scary.”
But the security of a specifically trained fourlegged friend comes at a high cost.
Families seeking a diabetic alert dog can expect to pay about $25,000 for it’s training and insurance, which is why the Rinehart family has begun fundraising.
“Anything that helps safeguard my son’s life is worth any amount to me,” said Rinehart. “I will do everything in my power to make sure he gets his service dog.”
In addition to a Go-
FundMe page that the family has set up, they will also be fundraising today at Pottstown Advance Auto Parts, 12 Moser Rd.
Advance Auto Parts has been supporting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, of which Marek Rinehart and his family are members, for 23 years.
“It’s hard on Marek to have to take time away from his activities to check his blood glucose levels, receive medication and explain to other children and adults about the disease, but he is very brave in managing it all,” Rinehart said.
To learn more or to donate visit www.gofundme. com/mct1dk9.
Marek Rinehart, 7, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 6. Marek’s family is fundraising so he can have a diabetic alert dog that will let him know when his glucose levels are reaching dangerous levels.