Puppy On Patrol

Service Dog Finally In Arms Of 14-Year-Old Diabetic

Posted: May 25, 2013

Morgan Raynes, 14, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes five years ago. Following months of fundraising, her family has finally welcomed Vixen, a fox red Labrador retriever trained to alert Morgan and her family members to life-threatening dips and spikes in her blood sugar. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Diabetic 14-year-old Morgan Raynes (second from right) meets her new service dog Vixen on May 19 in Shenandoah. (From left) Tim Molina, of Warren Retrievers, based in Orange; Morgan’s father Eddie; her sister Lily, and mother Amy help welcome the puppy. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Morgan Raynes is keeping up with freshman studies from home, but is excited to return to Page County High School in the fall — alongside Vixen. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Five years have passed since Morgan Raynes was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Her life hasn’t been the same since, but the family rode the highs and lows — until it became clear that they needed help humans couldn’t provide.

Nearly a year ago, her insulin pump failed, and ketoacidosis set in: a close call that could have been avoided, had Vixen been there.

Months of fundraising, bake sales, car washes and health scares later, the Raynes family got the phone call they’d waited for: Warren Retrievers had a diabetic alert dog for the 14-year-old.

Twenty minutes after meeting Vixen for the first time in March, the puppy began to squirm in Morgan’s arms. She passed her away to someone else, where Vixen calmed down.

The trainer suggested they check Morgan’s blood sugar levels: Vixen wasn’t just an antsy puppy, but already detecting a spike in her sugar.

Detecting Detriment
Vixen lay sleeping, content with her new home at Morgan’s feet.

This time last year, Morgan spent her free time drawing and writing — pausing her teenage life to check blood sugar levels 12 times a day. If levels were low, she worried about going to sleep for the night.

With fox red Labrador retriever Vixen now at her side, she’s already more at peace.

Trained since seven months old to detect the dips and spikes in blood sugar, Warren Retrievers’ service dogs, based in Orange County, can sense changes an hour before an alert device, such as continuous glucose monitors.

“It’s more people training than it is dog training,” said Tim Molina, Warren Retrievers trainer, who is working closely with the Rayneses as they learn about their new family member.

For now, Vixen has to be watched closely for “stress signals,” such as yawning and licking. Eventually, she’ll signal with a paw. More advanced training will follow: fetching glucose tablets, bringing Morgan her meter, or even knowing when to press an emergency call box if she’s unresponsive.

Future Plans
In March, Morgan’s diabetic spikes were so high, her mother Amy Raynes had to remove her from class three to four times a week.

Morgan’s keeping up with her freshman studies from home, but looking forward to returning to Page County High School in the fall — alongside Vixen.

The dog will even be able to detect the difference between Morgan’s sugar levels and those of another student in her school with diabetes.

But before the bell rings for her sophomore year, she’s focusing on an upcoming camping trip with her new friend.

For more information on Warren Retrievers diabetic alert dogs, visit warrenretrievers.com.

Contact Samantha Cole at 574-6274 or scole@dnronline.com.