By: Meagan Esler
We are a tight-knit community. I’m not talking about my neighbors in my hometown of Chicago. I’m talking about my worldwide neighbors in the diabetic online community. Anyone dealing with diabetes knows the bond that it brings. When a person with diabetes is wronged, the rest of us feel the sting. Most of us living with diabetes have stories about people badgering our diet choices, saying inappropriate or insensitive things, and, sadly, crossing the line even further.
An insulin-dependent diabetic friend of mine, Jim Murray of Pennsylvania, recently stopped at a local store to purchase some milk. He brought along his hypoglycemia alert dog, Sugar. Suddenly, the clerk ordered Jim and his dog to get out of the store. Jim calmly explained to the clerk that Sugar was not just a pet, but rather, a service dog. Because diabetes is not a visible illness, people often don’t realize that Sugar has an extremely important job. Jim even carries papers to prove that he needs his dog to travel with him.
A second clerk came on the scene and said that Sugar’s presence was permissible because she was “like a blind dog,” but the first clerk resisted, shouting that he could tell that Jim wasn’t blind. The clerk threatened to call the police if Jim didn’t leave, to which Jim replied, “Go ahead. It saves me the trouble of calling them myself!”
As a person with type 1 diabetes, this story was enough to make my own blood sugar rise. To anyone who’s ever passed out from low blood sugar, Sugar is a four-legged hero. People with diabetes are rendered helpless if their blood sugar goes too low. They can end up unconscious and even experience seizures or brain damage. Sugar is Jim’s guardian, there to help him avoid a potentially life-threatening situation.
Several of Jim’s local friends offered to boycott the store because of the insulting clerk. Others offered to write strongly worded letters to the store’s corporate office about Jim’s inappropriate and illegal treatment.
Jim decided to handle the situation by notifying the local police so that they could make sure that such an event didn’t happen to anyone else, regardless of disability. The officers reported back that the clerk won’t be denying assistance to people with service animals again.
There is a lot of ignorance about diabetes. People still believe that if you have diabetes, you are just not allowed to eat sugar. They have no idea of the dangers that low blood sugar can pose. They don’t know about all the things people with diabetes go through on a daily basis, not just to survive, but to live a happy, healthy, and normal life.
They don’t realize that a beautiful dog like Sugar could literally save a life.
To visit Sugar’s Facebook page, click on this link: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1537668689060.69566.1455154143&type=1#!/pages/Sugar/201997379879246.