Raising funds for a dog for Alex

By on August 29, 2014

Photo: Elburn’s McGarvey family—Ray and Heather, with sons Raymond, Brandon, Jonathon and Alex—is running a Go Fund Me campaign to assist them in the purchase of a trained companion dog for youngest family member, Alex, 9.
Photo by Debbie Behrends

ELBURN—Like many 9-year-old boys, Alex McGarvey of Elburn is excited about getting his first dog. But Alex’s dog will be more than just a pet.

Alex is diabetic, and the new family pet will be his trained companion dog.

Heather McGarvey, Alex’s mom, explained that trained companions are different than service dogs.

“We don’t need a service dog for him out in public that no one else can touch,” Heather said. “We need it primarily for here at home.”

Although Alex was diagnosed when he was just a year old, and he has an insulin pump, Heather said he’s growing so fast, and changes in his blood sugar are frequent.

“We’ve been talking with his doctor awhile, and he’s not eligible to get a sensor that goes in his stomach to help regulate his blood sugars,” Heather said.

Alex said when his blood sugar is very high, he has a pounding headache and he’s very thirsty. When it’s low, he said his legs get wobbly.

“I think it will be nice to have a dog that can smell when my sugar is high or low,” Alex said.

Ray McGarvey, Alex’s father, said Alex’s older brothers, Raymond, Brandon and Jonathon, all know what to do when Alex needs assistance, but often his blood sugar dips dangerously low when he’s sleeping. A dog could smell that situation and wake Alex or anyone else in the house to get him the help he needs.

But dogs with specialized training don’t come cheap. Heather said their research has found dogs ranging from $10,000 to $20,000—and some from for-profit companies that are not so reputable.

The family has determined that the best route is to get a puppy, a female German shepherd. Alex said that the family will take her to a series of obedience classes before she is scent trained. Because they plan to raise the dog, she will bond with the entire family.

Not only is the process an expensive one, it’s a lengthy one. Heather said it will take about a year before the dog is ready for scent training.

But in the end, the family will have a pet and Alex will have a companion that will help keep him healthy as he grows.

A Go Fund Me campaign has been established to help the McGarveys in purchasing Alex’s four-legged assistant. For more of Alex’s story, and to make a donation, visit www.GoFundMe.com/c753tw.