Should Basson’s blood sugar level be too low, Hazel will alert her with the touch of a paw.
“Her paw on me is different from any other gesture. She just turned 1, and she’s wonderful,” Basson said.
Basson, 40, from Cape Town, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes two years ago.
Having to test her blood sugar level at least 12 times a day, she decided to research medic alert dogs and found they were difficult to find in South Africa.
She then discovered Honey’s Garden Medical Alert Dogs SA, which provides task-trained service dogs.
The dogs include diabetic alert dogs, seizure response dogs and psychiatric service dogs.
After making contact with the non-profit organisation’s founder and director, Lucy Breytenbach, Basson was told there was a possibility a donor would cover the R100 000 to train Hazel.
When the sponsorship came through, Basson was delighted. She and Hazel have been inseparable for the past month and a bit.
Hazel, who sniffs sweat, saliva and body fluid, can detect a drop in Basson’s blood sugar level.
“My family loves her, but they are not allowed to treat her as if she is their pet. She is a medic dog, my medic dog. Only I can pet and cuddle her, and I do so all the time,” Basson said.
Hazel is still being trained to sniff Basson according to a schedule. This includes sniffs at 1am and 5am.
Basson sets her alarm for those hours, and Hazel gets up with her. “I give it two months until she goes on autopilot and wakes me without the alarm sounding. She is helping to improve my quality of life.”
Hazel is great outdoors, and enjoys a healthy dose of exercise a few times a week. She already knows and responds to 25 commands.
Breytenbach, who moved to South Africa from the UK, said it costs between R80 000 and R100 000 to train and place a service dog with a disabled person, depending on what type of dog is needed.
“In Hazel’s case, a donor found it in their heart to sponsor the R100 000 it took to train Hazel. There are more than 100 people on the waiting list for a medic dog,” Breytenbach said.
To find out more about the organisation or to make a donation, visit https://www.medicalalertdogs.co.za/home