Dance-Rios gets active with help of canine companion

June 7, 2012

Dance-Rios gets active with help of canine companion

Linda A Lucchetti,, 925-422-5815

Editor's note: The following story was taken from a 'Get Active' newsletter  that featured employees who are active in spite of physical challenges. Get Active, the Lab's annual eight-week fitness campaign, closes June 10. 

What would you do if you suddenly could not perform the simplest acts like unlocking a door or turning off a light switch? 

Ginny Dance-Rios of Computation and a member of the Get Active team "Choice Makers" knows first-hand about this issue. She was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1982 and hypoglycemic unawareness some eight years ago. Hypoglycemia unawareness is a state in which a person does not feel or recognize the symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Hypoglycemia causes the brain to lose its ability to work efficiently, making the simplest, everyday task impossible. 

Dance-Rios learned that many people have hypoglycemic unawareness. In 2005, she found an organization (Dogs4Diabetics) that trains companion dogs to pick up the scent of the hormones released when the body's glycemic index falls. In 2006, she met her companion dog, a black Labrador named Eloise.

Dance-Rios does her best to keep her blood sugars as close to normal as possible to minimize the possibility of

developing any diabetic complications. Even though having a service dog brings a new set of challenges, Dance-Rios realizes that Eloise assists her daily and knows the canine companion can be a life saver.

Eloise accompanies Dance-Rios to work every day. And, for the last two years she's been by her side as they hike to find all the hidden geocaches during the Lab's annual Get Active program. Although it's up to Dance-Rios to find the geocache locations, Eloise stays by her side and through physical or audible alerts, reminds her if she needs to check her blood sugar.  (These alerts are about 75 percent correct.)

"Attitude has a lot to do with success," Dance-Rios said. "We may not have control over our physical limitations but we do have control over our attitude toward them."