PDSA Order of Merit awarded to Medical Detection Dog, Pal

A Medical Detection Dog from Kent has been honoured by leading veterinary charity, PDSA for his outstanding devotion to his owner.

Eight-year old Labrador, Pal is trained to detect changes in blood sugar levels for his diabetic pet owner and was awarded the PDSA Order of Merit – an animal equivalent of the OBE.

During his seven-year career, Pal alerted his owner Claire Pearson to over 12,00 separate blood-sugar changes. If not caught in time, these could have killed her. His interventions have prevented countless NHS emergency call-outs and resulted in fewer hospital admissions for Claire.

Commenting on today’s award, PDSA Director General, Jan McLoughlin, said: “Pal has spent six year protecting Claire’s wellbeing. It is clear that a special bond exists between the two of them and this incredible life-enhancing devotion makes Pal a most worthy recipient of the PDSA Order of Merit.”

Claire has lived with Type 1 Brittle Diabetes since birth and her life and her family’s life changed dramatically in 2003 when she fell seriously ill with end-stage renal failure.

This resulted in her needing a pancreas and kidney transplant and faced dialysis three times a week. Claire was rendered unable to tell when she was hypoglycaemic (hypo), which meant that her young children would often return home from school to find her collapsed.

Her health diagnosis plunged her into severe depression and she was later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – a side effect of being told she had a life-limiting condition. She was left with little confidence and unable to leave the house on her own.

In the depths of despair, Claire saw an advert for Medical Detection Dogs and applied for assistance. In 2012, Claire was introduced to 16-month-old Labrador, Pal, and their remarkable relationship began.

On the very first night in his new home, Pal alerted Claire to a hypo as she slept – nudging her face and ribs with his nose and licking her. He does this by smelling the chemical changes in Claire’s breath.

His ability to do this has stopped Claire from falling into hypo-induced comas on countless occasions.

Discussing Pal’s abilities, Claire said: “He is trained to fetch my blood sugar monitor, glucose, insulin and will even bring me my phone if I need it. If I’m too ill to help myself, Pal will fetch someone or push our panic button at home, which alerts the emergency service.”

In addition, Pal has accompanied Claire to all her dialysis sessions for five year, helping to keep her calm and happy as she undergoes treatment.

“Having Pal gave me the confidence to leave the house again,” explained Claire. “I started joining local fundraising activities and even giving talks about how wonderful Pal is and how he’s helped me to reclaim my life. It was truly life-changing, and I can never repay him for giving me peace of mind. Knowing that my boys wouldn’t face coming home from school to find me dangerously ill.”

In November 2018, Claire received a life-changing kidney and pancreas transplant. The transplant meant that Claire is no longer a diabetic, but Pal has continued to look after Claire – alerting her to changes in her blood sugar which could indicate early-stage organ rejection.

PDSA Director General, Jan Mcloughlin continued: “Pal’s intelligence, skill and unstinting devotion to Claire has truly transformed her life and the lives of her family. His loyalty exemplifies why we love and respect animals as we do. Pal is a thoroughly deserving recipient of the PDSA Order of Merit.”

Gemma Butlin form Medical Detection Dogs said: “We are thrilled that Medical Detection Dogs has been honoured in this way. Pal and other Medical Alert Assistance Dogs not only save lives day and night, but they give their human partners their quality of life back. We are so privileged to work with these wet-nosed superheroes and grateful for all the support we receive.”

To date, including Pal, there have been 21 recipients of the PDSA Order of Merit: 11 dogs and 10 horses. The PDSA Medal, which was instituted in 2014, recognises animals who display outstanding devotion to their owner or wider society, above and beyond normal companionship -and represent exceptional examples of the special relationship between animals and humans.

For more information about the previous recipients of the PDSA Order of Merit you can visit www.pdsa.org.uk/pdsaorderofmerit.