“I’ve had diabetes for like 15 years,” Bell said. “Growing up, I always kind of looked into getting a diabetes alert dog because I go low all the time, like my blood sugar goes low all the time.”
After Bell came to Chapel Hill to pursue his doctoral degree, he found Eyes Ears Nose and Paws, a nonprofit organization located in Carrboro that trains and places assistance dogs to help people with specific illnesses.
“It’s just hard because I don’t really know anybody here, and I haven’t been able to establish myself in the community,” Bell said. “Luckily, some people on the Eyes Ears Nose and Paws board kind of reached out to me and have helped and all that stuff.”
Bell had met all the potential dog graduates in December. On March 25, he will graduate with his own dog, who is able to detect blood sugar changes and bump Bell when his blood sugar levels fluctuate too much.
The training process usually takes 20 months along with another three months of person-specific training, which matches the dog to its owner, said Katie Miller, a furlough trainer at Eyes Ears Nose and Paws.
“I have the dogs at home with me, and I bring them out in the community and train in public with them and just reinforced what they get in our inmate training program out in the community,” Miller said.
Client Services Specialist Rachel Robertson said Eyes Ears Nose and Paws has helped many individuals with disabilities improve their lives.
“We placed a dog in November, and the family was able to go Christmas shopping, and they hadn’t been able to do that in 13 years,” Robertson said. “But they were able to do that with that dog.”
Bell said his low blood sugar problems caused by the Type 1 Diabetes have affected his daily life in a number of ways. However, his condition was barely understood by people.
“It’s hard for someone like me because diabetes is kind of an invisible disease. No one can really see that I’m sick or, you know, that I have an illness,” Bell said.
“So whenever I tell someone that I’m raising money for a dog, people automatically think, ‘Oh, you just want a dog,’ and I’m like ‘No, it’s going to help me with school; it’s going to help me with just my daily life; it’s going to help me sleep at night because I have low blood sugars in the middle of the night often times, and this happens multiple times in the week, I’ll wake up at two, three in the morning and my blood sugar will be low.”
Eyes Ears Nose and Paws has granted Bell a scholarship to cover 75 percent of the placement fees. Bell only needs to raise another $5,000 to finish his application.
Bell has created a website to tell his story in order to fundraise for his application.
“I hope that, you know, this will give me an avenue to meet other people who are affected by diabetes and help them,” Bell said.