LEYDEN, Massachusetts (WWLP) – After a two-year wait, a young college student now has a special four-legged sidekick with a mutual love for Hallmark movies and the outdoors to keep her company, but most importantly, protect her.
In October, Julia Duprey was introduced to a new best friend named Pretzel. Pretzel is a 14-month-old diabetic watchdog, a type of service dog that helps people with diabetes detect dangerously low or high blood sugar levels.
In 2004, at the age of six, Julia was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which means that Julia’s body is barely able to produce insulin. This leaves her unable to control her blood sugar levels, which can be life-threatening.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month and Julia spoke to 22News about her story to spread awareness.
“Diabetic watchdogs are usually scent-trained,” says Duprey. Diabetic watchdogs are trained to be able to decipher and detect glucose levels through the scents expelled from their owner’s breath and palms. These specific scents allow Pretzel to detect Julia’s levels and alert her. A sweet or fruity odor indicates Julia’s levels are high, and a sweaty odor indicates her levels are low.
“Yeah, no, she’s not only my lifeline, but also a built-in best friend and companion. She sleeps on my bed every night, she actually sleeps with me and my cat, which is the cutest thing ever,” Duprey said. getting a diabetic watchdog took a lot of patience but something Julia is very grateful for Julia was on a two year waiting list during which time she raised money and asked for support from her community.
Diabetic watchdogs are expensive, ranging between $5k and 10k, and unfortunately insurance doesn’t cover this. “I fully received Pretzel through the donations on GoFundMe. I got donations from friends and family and actually a bunch of strangers I didn’t even know, which is remarkable the kindness of strangers,” Duprey said. Fortunately, after raising enough money, Julia was able to adopt Pretzel through a service dog company called TAKES CARE.
The CARES Ceremony in Kansas was a special day that didn’t mean a happy ending, but a happy beginning for Julia and Pretzel. “It was very emotional and my mom and I started to cry because it was so emotional and the trainer brought her up and I bent down and gave her a big hug,” Duprey said.
Before Julia got Pretzel, she depended on her Dexcom, a device in her leg that tracks her glucose levels and sends updates to her phone throughout the day. Julia said it wasn’t very accurate, but thanks to Pretzel, she doesn’t have to worry now. “Back at the Airbnb I had low blood sugar and she stayed by my side for two hours while I recovered. My mom and I just sat there crying for a bit and thought, ‘Oh my God, this is going to change lives!’ This is the best decision for me,” said Duprey.
When diabetic watchdogs detect a change in glucose levels, they detect owners in several ways. Julia says, “She’ll stare at you honestly and sometimes she’ll come up to you and maybe bark. What we do with the workout is if I’m high or low, we’re like “Pretzel Check!”
Julia encourages others with type 1 diabetes to get a dog like Pretzel because it has made such a big difference in her life and that of her parents. Now that she has Pretzel, she can move into a dorm and not have to worry about passing out or sleeping from a low or high glucose alert. “I love Pretzel with all my heart and I’m more than happy to have her,” said Duprey.