The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

May 14, 2012

Fundraiser will help purchase medical alert dog

By James Neal, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — The public is invited to “Dance, Dine and Drag for DJ” Saturday at a fundraiser to purchase a medical alert dog for a local boy.

The event will raise money to help the family of 14-year-old D.J. Toelle purchase a dog trained by the National Institute for Diabetic Alert Dogs to detect dangerously high or low blood sugar levels. The fundraiser, which will feature a street dance, dinner, silent auction and fire truck pull, will take place 6-10 p.m. Saturday at 2nd and Maple in downtown Enid.

D.J., a sophomore and cross-country runner at Kremlin-Hillsdale High School, has lived with insulin-dependent type 1 diabetes since he was 4 years old.

According to American Diabetes Association, in type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, “a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life.”

Type 1 diabetes can be managed by monitoring blood sugar levels and undergoing insulin therapy, but high levels of blood sugar, hyperglycemia, or low levels, hypoglycemia, still can be deadly if left undetected.

Kaylene Toelle, D.J.’s mom, said the medical alert dog will help prevent any dangerous blood sugar levels going undetected in D.J.

“We’ve had several scares, but we didn’t even know about this program until recently,” Toelle said, referring to the dog training program provided by the National Institute for Diabetic Alert Dogs.

The institute trains a variety of dog breeds to detect chemical compounds released by a person through breath and sweat when they’re experiencing dangerously high or low blood sugar levels.

According to NIDAD literature, a dog’s sense of smell is up to 1,000 times more powerful than a human’s, allowing a specially trained dog to detect a dangerous diabetic event before the person experiencing the event can feel the effects.

“The dog will alert to D.J.’s blood sugar if his blood sugar gets out of his target zone or becomes dangerous, and the dog can detect it before he can feel it,” Toelle said. “Nights are really dangerous, because if they go low during the night, they can’t feel it, and a lot of diabetic kids have died during the night because of that.”

The Toelles have selected a 10-month-old black lab to purchase from NIDAD, and they plan to name him Satchmo.

Lily Grace, founder and owner of NIDAD, said Satchmo, whose current name is Dexter, was given to the institute as a puppy. All of NIDAD’s dogs are rescue animals, and all undergo a compatibility assessment, obedience training, veterinary examinations and scent sensory assessment before they begin training.

Grace said the training for a diabetic alert dog is “very similar to the training used for law enforcement drug and bomb dogs, we just use a different scent and we train them to use a different alert.”

She said diabetic alert dogs are trained to paw at their person when they detect dangerous blood sugar levels to get their attention, and notify them of the condition.

And, Lily said, dogs are able to perform this function 24 hours a day because even when sleeping at night, dogs wake five times as often as humans, allowing the dog to detect a dangerous condition and alert their owner before it becomes life-threatening.

Diabetic alert dogs undergo four to six months of training, and once certified they are a licensed service animal and are able to accompany their owner in all public places.

All of that training, and the peace of mind that comes with the dog, carries a hefty price tag: about $15,000 or more per animal.

The Toelle family is hoping to clear that hurdle with Saturday’s fundraiser, which will begin with registration for the fire truck pull at 5:30 p.m.

Teams of up to 10 people each will compete to pull an Enid Fire Department fire truck 25 feet in the least amount of time. Registration fee is $100 for a team or $10 per person to join a matched team.

The winning team will take home 20 percent of the pot or $200, whichever is greater.

A cookout will begin at 6 p.m., featuring a hot dog, chips, cookie and drink for $5 per person. DippinDots ice cream will be available for a separate charge.

During dinner a silent auction will take place, featuring OU and OSU memorabilia, a YMCA membership, spa gift certificates and a variety of gift items from local merchants.

The evening will conclude with a street dance beginning at 8 p.m. The dance will feature a professional DJ, lights and smoke machine in what Toelle described as a “prom atmosphere.”

Entry fee to the dance is $3 per person, or $1 for children less than 10 years old.

All events will take place in the parking lot at 2nd and Maple in downtown Enid.

For information, email adogfordj@gmail.com, or call (580) 484-3937.