Man’s best friend? One might not think so if they heard the story of Jerry Douthett and the terrier that ate his big toe while he slept off too many alcoholic beverages. Of course, if that’s all they heard, then they’d have reason to doubt a canine’s loyalty. The full story, however, reveals not only that dogs are some of the greatest beasts on earth, but also that their keen sense of smell serves us in many more venues than the field.
According to mlive.com, Douthett, of Rockford, Mich., was planning a trip to the doctor’s office to check out his infected big toe. Something that had gotten so out of hand that he couldn’t wear shoes, but had to opt for loose-fitting sandals in recent weeks.
He was afraid of the diagnosis, since his brother had died of diabetes complications several years ago, and so headed to a couple of bars to muster up some liquid courage. After a couple of beers and some big-ass margaritas, Douthett was beyond ten-foot tall and bulletproof so his wife took him home to sleep it off. That’s when the couple’s terrier Kiko made his move.
Awakening from his alcohol-induced haze, Douthett found Kiko sitting next to him in the bed. He had blood all around and his big toe was missing. The 48-year-old musician just started yelling, “My toe’s gone! My toe’s gone!”
His registered-nurse wife, Rosee, rushed Douthett to the hospital where he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and was told that he had a bad infection in the toe that was related to the disease.
Apparently, Kiko smelled the infection and decided to do what dogs do when they find something stinky; either roll in it or eat it. Kiko ate the digit and is now credited with getting Douthett off his butt and into treatment for diabetes.
Doctors believe that Douthett didn’t awaken because, despite his drunken state, the infection, which would require further amputation, had caused enough nerve damage that he slept through the terrier’s moments of toothsome terror.
While it sounds, well, it is, crazy, Douthett recalls that in the months since the infection began, anytime they’d visit friends, any dogs in the household would be sniffing at his foot. I guess Kiko was the only one with enough cajones to take matters into her own hands…er, mouth.
Despite having a blood-sugar level of 560, nearly seven times a normal level, and missing his big toe, Douthett is doing fine and is making light of the situation. He is seeking treatment for the disease and has sworn off alcohol.
While somewhat humorous, this story underlies the importance of two things. One, the early detection, treatment and control of diabetes and, two, the amazing scenting ability of dogs and their role in that detection.
Kiko might not have taken a detection-and-alert method to Douthett’s diabetes, but that’s what is happening with many dogs today.
Mike Stewart at Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, Miss., is working with and training “diabetic alert dogs” (or DAD) that signal when their handler’s blood-sugar levels range outside of “normal” levels (either high or low). The dogs are used to alert Type I diabetics and have been credited with many alerts, even when the handler’s are sleeping.
It’s a testament to the scenting power of canines and how we continue to live a symbiotic relationship with our best animal friends.