Hey! My name is Vimpan and I take care of my owner's diabetes!
Eight year old Vimpan is the world's first and only chihuahua who can proudly call himself a diabetic alarm dog. He was trained by the Swedish Working Dog Association - SBK - and accompanies his owner Sofia Karlsson in all kinds of situations, come rain or shine.
“He is allowed to fly, come to restaurants and even visit hospitals with me,” says Sofia, from Gothenburg, with a smile.
And Sofia eagerly adds that Vimpan has won show champion awards in ten different countries.
“Of course, one can´t be other than proud about that.”
Sofia contracted type 1 diabetes at the age of four. She has had Vimpan ever since he was a puppy, and she got the idea to train him as a diabetic alarm dog after they had both completed a course in nose work.
“I called SBK and said that I wanted to train Vimpan as a diabetic dog. That surprised them a bit… training a chihuahua to be a diabetic alarm dog? It had never been tried before. Usually Labradors are trained for this task.”
But yes, Sofia and Vimpan were approved for a course.
First, a BPH suitability test was carried out, where, among other things, Vimpan's mentality was tested but also broadened to include tests of his social behaviour. Vimpan did brilliantly there as well.
“He certainly did. For example, he showed that he had no problems sleeping in a noisy café.”
That opened the way for the main broad and comprehensive training course under the guidance of a private instructor, that would teach Sofia and Vimpan to function as an efficient and reliable assistance team.
So, how do you get a dog to sense if a person has high or low blood sugar?
“I collected my own scents in sterilized jars. I used cotton pads with sweat and saliva when I had both high and low blood sugar. In this way, Vimpan learned to sniff out the odours that indicated my blood sugar is not okay. But what´s more, his nose is so sensitive that he can detect critical levels on their way long before they actually happen.
“I´d say he can pick them up some twenty minutes before the measuring instrument on my arm.”
How does he communicate his warnings then? Well, there´s a small tag hanging on his collar, that he picks at and holds in his mouth as soon as he notices that Sofia's blood sugar is heading in the wrong direction.
“If he does not have his collar on, he resourcefully picks something else that’s close by up, for example a shoelace or something else on the ground. It can be pretty much anything. But he never fails to alert me.
And should Sofia's blood sugar level fall during the night when she is asleep, Vimpan will jump up to Sofia`s bed and wake her by scratching at her.
It took a year to train Vimpan and Sofia to be certified as a diabetes alert team. If you want to know more, please check out Sofia's instagram account @vimpanthesuperdog
After a tour of our factory in Trollhättan, they got ready to head off home to Gothenburg. This time with a new nice pink Care2 cage for Vimpan. He had put it to the test in the office while we were doing the interview - and fell asleep. So by the time they had to go it had already been tried, tested and approved in time for their departure for Gothenburg ;-)
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