Did you know that even some folks with anaphylactic allergies train their own service dogs?
While it may seem scary, with the right precautions, it is definitely possible!
Today we have Delta Tails' lovely assistant, Lauren Storm writing about her experience with training a gluten detection dog while also being anaphylactic to wheat and gluten!
Hi! I'm Lauren Storm, and along with being a professional trainer, I have also worked with Delta Tails to train my own gluten detection dog. I have both celiac disease and anaphylaxis to wheat and gluten, so it looked a little bit different for me!
I’ve personally had some very expensive detours to the emergency room - even once in a foreign country.
I have a combo of an autoimmune disease called celiac disease and anaphylactic allergies. Celiac disease means you can not eat gluten because it damages your small intestine. But my body has taken it a step further, and I have an anaphylactic allergic reaction to wheat as well as gluten. This means my face and throat swell to a point where I can no longer breathe.
The tricky part is that gluten and wheat are the glitter of the food world.
They are EVERYWHERE.
Think about anything with bread or crackers, your favorite cereal, and oat milk. They ALL have gluten and wheat! Even sunscreen and lip balms can have pesky gluten.
If you’ve ever spilled glitter in your house you know it's pretty hard to avoid.
That's where detection dogs come in.
That's right - a dog can help you avoid being twins with Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
There’s one small catch.
The thing you are most allergic to has to be brought inside your house (if you are training a dog yourself, that is).
For most gluten detection dogs for Celiac handlers, there are some precautions when training. But if you have anaphylactic allergies - you're going to want a hazmat team.
There is a way to train a detection dog safely when you are anaphylactic, but oh my do the first few sessions feel like a horror movie.
Here is how we keep safe when training Milo to detect gluten for me.
My family frequently asked the same question, but we learned quickly just how much dogs can detect!
We started the scariest project of my life and within three months, my service dog made his first save - he alerted me to a straw at a fair.
My entire family's faces looked like they saw a ghost.
We were shocked and so relieved.
While the toxic glitter was a nightmare to me - it was becoming an endless fun game to my dog.
Since I'm anaphylactic, my dog is able to check surfaces as well as the typical foods and packages a regular detection dog is trained for. Since we started a year ago, he's caught gluten on hospital sheets, our pet dog, food we thought was gluten free, packages in the mail, and so much more.
Before I trained Milo, I was using my epi pens (and ending up in the ER) multiple times a month.
Since training him and beginning this work with Blythe, I have had one ER trip in 6 months.
That makes the precautions, the nervousness, the fear, and the hard work totally worth it.
If you struggle with an anaphylactic reaction to an allergen and think you would benefit from a service dog like Milo, you can learn more by reading this post on whether a detection dog is right for you.
I can't wait to meet you!
Drop a bit about your struggles with training and what you are looking for in the "How can we help?" line below.
One of our trainers will reach out to you via email within 2-3 business days.