BAR HARBOR — “I love her,” Molly Dillon said emphatically when asked how she likes Opie, her diabetes alert dog.
As of last Friday, the two had been together for barely a week, but they had clearly bonded.
Opie will be Molly’s close companion and early warning system. Molly, 10, has had type 1 diabetes since she was 20 months old. Despite frequent monitoring and a pump that administers insulin every hour, the amount of sugar in her blood can rise or fall to dangerous levels quickly and unexpectedly.
Opie, having gone through months of intensive training at Heartland Diabetic Alert Dogs in Oklahoma, can tell by the scent of Molly’s breath whether her blood sugar level is even slightly abnormal. When that happens, Opie “alerts” by pawing at Molly. If Molly is asleep and doesn’t wake up when Opie paws her, the dog alerts Molly’s parents, Heather and Ed Dillon.
Opie is a year-and-a-half-old goldendoodle. Her diabetes alert training cost $18,000, which the family was able to pay with the help of donations and community fundraising events last fall summer and fall.
As a service dog, Opie can go into restaurants and almost anywhere else Molly goes. The dog also alerts when she detects abnormal blood sugar levels in anyone who is nearby.
“The other day, I had her in a store with me, and she kept alerting, and I didn’t understand why,” Heather Dillon said. “Then I realized I hadn’t eaten breakfast. When I got home, I checked my blood sugar, and it was low.”
For Molly’s parents, Opie represents peace of mind; they can worry less about their daughter experiencing a medical crisis at any moment. For Molly, Opie represents greater confidence and independence – and a fast friend.
“The hardest part is walking the fine line between treating her like a dog and just loving her and treating her like a working dog,” Heather Dillon said.