Pauline’s four-legged lifesaver

Published 10:19 am Friday, November 14, 2008

Winter is a shelter dog with a remarkable skill.

The female yellow Labrador retriever can detect when Pauline Iverson, a diabetic, is suffering a seriously low blood sugar level.

Winter will nudge Iverson if she appears to be falling unconscious.

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The dog will also go to the kitchen to retrieve a bottle of Mountain Dew to help Iverson lift her blood sugar level.

Iverson considers the dog a lifesaver.

“When Mike (Pauline’s husband) used to come home from work I would be passed out unconscious because of a low blood sugar episode,” Iverson said. “Now, we hope that won’t happen any more with Winter.”

The Iversons and Winter were special guests at Thursday’s mid-day meeting of the Austin Noon Lions Club at the Austin Elks Club.

The Iversons obtained the service dog from Hearing and Service Dogs of Minnesota, Inc. to help guard against the deadly low blood sugar episodes so frequent in Iverson’s life.

Before they could obtain the dog, the couple was required to have their backyard fenced to allow the dog a safe place to exercise.

That’s where the Minnesota Lions District 5M-1 came to the rescue with a $500 donation.

Next, the Austin Noon Lions and Austin Morning Lions clubs each donated $225 for the rest of the expense.

The Iversons got the fence and a service dog.

Mike Iverson, a Hormel Foods Corp. employee, has never lived in a household with a dog before in his life.

“We’ve only had Winter for a month, so it’s taken some adjustment on my part,” he said.

“She’s not a cure-all to the situation, but she’s a helper,” he said. “I’ve come home from work a few times over the years and found her unconscious and had to call the ambulance. Winter puts my mind at ease now.”

While Mike can pet Winter and scratch her ears like any other dog-lover would do, he cannot come between Winter and his wife. “They don’t want that to happen. They want Winter and Pauline to bond, so she can do what she has to do for her,” he said.

“I don’t feed her. I can walk her and pet her. That’s about all,” he said.

Winter, who will be 2 years old Jan. 2, 2009, came from a Twin Cities animal shelter before entering the Hearing and Service Dogs of Minnesota, Inc.’s training program.

Pauline Iverson was discovered to have diabetes in 1981. She has Type I diabetes and is insulin-dependent, taking injections three times each day.

“We’re still working on Winter detecting when my blood sugar levels are low and I don’t know it,” the woman said. “She’s noticed it a couple of times and nudged me to wake me up and that’s what I got her for.”

“Each time I go into one of the low blood sugar comas, it’s becoming harder and harder to bring me around the ambulance attendants have told me,” she said. “It’s takes longer all the time.”

Today, Pauline and Winter are taking a test for Hearing and Service Dogs of Minnesota Inc. “We’re going to walk around Apache Mall at Rochester so she can get used to a new environment and watching over me as we move among people,” Iverson said. “It’s part of their public access testing for Winter.

“They want to know how well she does in the public and how well she responds to my commands,” she said.

The woman has owned other dogs in her life, but none like Winter, who sleeps in a bed of her own next to Iverson’s bed.

Mike and Pauline Iverson expressed their appreciation to the Lions’ organizations for their generosity in making the service dog project a success.