Stuart Blundell may no longer be able to sense when his blood sugar is off but the keen nose of his service dog, Balta picks up the slack.
Blundell and Balta have been partners for over four years and are a familiar sight at the annual Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides in 100 Mile House.
“I work at the hospital so everybody in town knows her now because of that,” he said. “She chills there and she loves working in the hospital and all her co-workers love her.”
He said as a Type 1 diabetic he completely relies on Balta. Blundell is unable to feel anything anymore so he does not know where his sugar levels are at.
“The dog is like “Really, are you sure’ like a nagging wife, she makes sure I test,” he said laughing.
Balta does not give up and will be persistent even if he is busy, going as far as getting one of his co-workers if he does not listen to her right away.
The 108 Lions have hosted the walk for the past 25 years said Ingrid Meyer. “In the whole of the 25 years, we raised more than $25,000.”
Meyer noted that it costs around $35,000 for each dog to be trained.
Applicants have to fly to Ontario to meet the dog and its handler and make sure they are a match. If the dog and applicant match the handler travels to the applicant’s house and stays until they are confident enough the dog is doing the job.
As puppies selected to be service dogs grow the handlers will figure out what their strengths are. Some, like Balta, have an excellent sense of smell and sensitivity. Others might be good with technology such as opening the fridge.
Blundell has the option of replacing Balta when she retires in four years or keeping her into old age. Two dogs in a household are not allowed.
“So I will go a span without. Because you can’t right? She’s a homie now,” he laughed. “It’ll be fine but I’m keeping the dog.”