JASPER COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - A Jasper County woman is building a training facility so she can teach Jack Russell Terriers how to be diabetic alert dogs.
"We train diabetic alert dogs and what they do is detect changes in blood glucose levels so that the diabetic can keep from getting very high or very low," said Wendy Hallenbeck, owner and trainer of Thistle Ridge Diabetic Alert Dogs.
She's been training dogs in a different capacity for about 20 years but found her calling in training Jack Russell Terriers to be diabetic alert dogs.
Savi is just starting and 18-month training program.
"It's a simple process it just takes a lot of work," said Hallenbeck. "So the way you start it is you just get the dog to identify the can with the treat and the way that I do that is I hold it where she can see it and once she sniffs it, I give her a treat."
Hallenbeck says Savi just started training but is already starting to identify the can and the scent with the treat. Hallenbeck says Savi will perform this exercise about one thousand times before they move on to the next phase.
"When you're talking 18 months of training, it's extensive training. There are at least 1,000 logged hours on each dog that goes out and that's just what you write down," said Hallenbeck. "That doesn't count when I sleep with the dog and check the night alert."
A diabetic alert dog can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 for a properly trained dog but Hallenbeck says while the price may seem steep these service dogs are lifesavers.
"While the price seems high straight out, it's very minimal considering the life-saving device that it is," said Hallenbeck. "The dog can detect so much faster and so much earlier than a medical device will detect. By the time a diabetic starts to feel any effects they're blood sugar is already dropping and it can be at a dangerous level or they can be in a state when they cannot provide their own self-care."
Hallenbeck is currently fundraising to finish building her training facility.
To find out how you can help or if you're interested in getting a diabetic alert dog go here: http://www.thistleridgeterriers.com/