After years of training and visits to New Jersey and New York, Lt. Andy Vaughn, of the Ellisville Police Department, was finally able to bring home a diabetic alert dog named Scarlett for his three-year-old son, Sebastian. The family presented Scarlett to the Ellisville City Council at its meeting on Sept. 6.
On Dec. 14, 2014, Sebastian, then 9 months old, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and the family began the process of searching for a diabetic alert dog. But prices for those highly trained companions can easily surpass $20,000 and usually aren’t covered by insurance. Sebastian’s age at the time of diagnosis also complicate the search for the specially trained puppy.
In January 2015, when the city council learned of Vaughn’s need, councilmembers voted to present the Ellisville officer with $15,000 from the city of Ellisville’s benevolent fund to help purchase a diabetic alert dog. By then, the family had already learned about a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy named Scarlett, who was being trained a few states away.
Scarlett previously belonged to the nonprofit organization Merlin’s Kids, based New Jersey, that turns shelter dogs into service animals. She went through years of specialty training, including courses at Cornell University in New York, to prepare for helping Sebastian.
She works with Sebastian by smelling his mouth and breath to detect low glucose levels in his blood. She can also react to typical hypoglycemia symptoms, such as sweating or shaking, and is large enough to carry or drag Sebastian to help in dire situations.
Since bringing Scarlett home in late August, the family turned their efforts to helping others, beginning with a fundraising effort benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation [JDRF].
At a bake sale benefiting JDRF on Sept. 2, the Vaughn family raised $1,240 in donations for the JDRF One Walk in St. Louis City and St. Charles County. Combined with previous donations from silent auctions and dart tournaments around the local area, the Vaughn family has raised $12,470 for JDRF. The family’s fundraising goal is $15,000, the same amount that came from Ellisville’s benevolent fund in 2015.
“This kindness has touched our family as we have vowed to pay it forward,” Vaughn said. “We feel that working hard to help fund the research that could find a cure is the most significant thing that we can do.”