WOODBURY — Hobie Lewis, 9, a fourth grader at Mitchell Elementary School, is fundraising for a diabetes alert dog through a Go Fund Me page and Ditties for a Dog, a music mini-marathon set for 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, November 10, at the Mattatuck Unitarian Universalist Society, 214 Main St. South. Hobie is the son of Peter and Misty Lewis of Woodbury.
The summer before first grade, Hobie seemed to be thirsty all the time. His mother, who is a type 1 diabetic, knew that excessive thirst was a symptom of the disease. She decided to have his blood tested.
According to Misty, someone who doesn’t have diabetes usually has a blood sugar of below 140, depending on when they last ate. Hobie’s blood sugar tested above 500.
Misty called the doctor right away, then took Hobie to the hospital for testing. They soon learned he had type 1 diabetes.
Hobie understands that diabetes is an autoimmune disease that makes his body stop producing insulin.
“I can’t control it with food or exercise like people with type 2 diabetes,” he said on his Go Fund Me page. “I have to give myself insulin to stay healthy.
“There were some tough times in the beginning with insulin shots and poking my fingers all the time to test my blood sugar, but I got used to it,” he said. “And I didn’t have to wait very long to get an insulin pump, either, which means less shots for me.”
Since his diagnosis, Hobie has learned a lot about diabetes. He knows about carb counting, and how insulin is made.
He also learned that dogs can be trained to help people with diabetes know when their blood sugar gets too low.
According to the American Kennel Club, diabetes alert dogs are service dogs that are trained specifically to assist diabetics.
Their primary task is to alert diabetics of an oncoming hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemic (high blood sugar) event.
The dogs are able to do this by reacting to particular smells emitted from the human body due to chemical shifts caused by either hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. Those smells are undetectable by a human nose.
In addition to being on alert for blood sugar malfunctions, diabetes alert dogs provide love and emotional support to their owners, resulting in an increased sense of security and balance in their daily lives.
“Low blood sugars are the most scary thing about being a type 1 and by the time I feel mine, I am really, really low,” said Hobie. That makes his mom and dad scared, he added.
Hobie loves dogs. His dream is to have a dog that can also help keep him safe.
There are a number of organizations that specialize in training and matching diabetes alert dogs to type 1 diabetics. Hobie and his family would like to work with Medical Mutts in Indiana, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to training rescue dogs as service dogs and promoting collaboration between dogs and people through science, education and ethical training.
“They have a great BBB rating and I really like their philosophy and our interactions so far in the process,” said Misty.
Diabetes alert dogs go through special training to be service dogs, then through more training to smell blood sugar. That makes them very expensive.
The cost of $15,000 to $25,000 puts a diabetes alert dog out of range for the Lewis family. That’s why Hobie created his Go Fund Me page.
As of last week he had raised $8,483 towards his goal of $18,000.
“I am hoping if everyone helps a little, I can make my dream come true and have a diabetes alert dog of my own,” he said.
Music teacher Nancy McMillan is working with the family on Ditties for a Dog, a music mini-marathon featuring Hobie, some of his fellow piano students and other local musicians.
The event is set for 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, November 10, at the Mattatuck Unitarian Universalist Society, which shares space with First Congregational Church of Woodbury, 214 Main St. South.
Misty told Voices that Hobie plans to play “Bingo,” “My Favorite Things,” “Where Oh Where Did My Little Dog Go” and “Hedwig’s Theme.” As the event falls on the day before Veterans Day, some patriotic songs will be included as well.
Several of Nancy’s other piano students will perform, along with local musicians Doug Mahard, Tyler Mahard, Noelle Chave, Anne Grilli, Meg Capen, Marty Brennan and more.
Those attending are welcome to stay for as long or as short as they like.
Light refreshments will be served.
“Hobie has always been a joy to work with,” said Nancy. “His love of music has been present from the start of our lessons four years ago. It’s been remarkable to watch him grow in maturity as he has learned how to deal with his diabetes.
“I’m very excited about this opportunity for him to have a service dog, as it will provide a tremendous amount of support on several levels.”
Parking is available in the LaBonne’s lot.
Donations at the door will go towards costs associated with a diabetes alert dog for Hobie.
Those wishing to further support Hobie in his quest for an alert dog may visit his Go Fund Me page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/hobie039s-diabetes-alert-dog.