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Kingsport girl raising money for diabetic alert dog

Holly Viers • Jul 30, 2018 at 6:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Since 10-year-old Zoe Jackson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2016, life hasn’t always been easy.

There have been scary moments when Zoe’s blood sugar levels have dropped to dangerous levels, sometimes in mere minutes. Though Zoe used to be sensitive to her blood sugar changes, she has become more unaware in recent months, especially when her levels drop at night.

That’s where a diabetic alert dog comes in. When Zoe’s blood sugar levels rise or fall without her noticing, these specially trained dogs could alert Zoe to the change and prompt her to take action.

The only problem? These dogs generally cost about $18,000.

“It’s kind of been on the back burner because they’re just so expensive,” said Zoe’s mother, Mallori Jackson, “but that would be her dream to have one.”

The road to a dog

Over the past several months, Jackson said several people have reached out to her about raising money for a diabetic alert dog. Though she was initially hesitant because of the hefty price tag, Jackson consented once she realized the benefits the dogs can have.

“They’re amazing,” Jackson said. “They’re better than any technology or anything. … The most accurate (monitor) we have is the Dexcom, and it checks her blood sugar every five minutes, but the dog knows when you’re dropping before you even know it yourself.”

The dogs do this by recognizing scents a person’s body gives off when their blood sugar levels are rising or falling, according to Healthline. These scents are unnoticeable to the human senses.

The animals learn these skills through an intensive training program, which often takes about a year to complete. At that point, the dogs are officially considered service animals and can accompany their owners wherever they go, including school.

“They don’t go to other people,” Jackson said. “They’re just calm and they sit beside you, and when you get low or high, they’ll usually just nudge you, and they won’t quit until you do something about it.”

If enough money is raised, Jackson plans to buy from Heartland Diabetic Alert Dogs, an Oklahoma-based company. When asked why she’d like to have a diabetic alert dog, Zoe’s first response was that it would make life easier for her mother.

“It’ll help mom because she’s always having to wake up in the middle of the night,” Zoe said, with her mom adding that Zoe’s “always been a huge animal lover.”

How you can help

Some local businesses have planned fundraising events to help the Jacksons raise money for a diabetic alert dog. 

The first of these events is “Once Upon A Summer Evening,” a live, interactive princess show organized by Once Upon A Party, a local princess party business. This event will be held Aug. 17 from 7-8:30 p.m. at The Emporium, located on Broad Street in downtown Kingsport. To learn more or to purchase tickets, search for the event’s name on EventBrite.com.

Other fundraising events are also coming up, including a softball tournament, corn hole tournament and homerun derby on Sept. 15 and 16. For more information on this event, click here.

A spaghetti dinner is also being planned at Riverfront Seafood Company in October, though a date hasn’t been announced.

Those who are unable to attend one of these events can make an online donation at www.gofundme.com/zoes-quest-a-diabetic-alert-dog.

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