© 2020 Lauren Burke

  • Instagram Black Round
  • Lauren Burke

Ricki Catches Another One!

Ricki alerts on my blood sugars 5-20 times a day. She was trained to alert on the biochemical scent that a diabetic produces when their blood sugar levels change, and she does a great job at it. She isn't perfect, don't get me wrong, she's a living, breathing, sleeping being. But she is incredible and I wouldn't trade her for the world!


Ever since we were first placed together, Ricki was spot on. In order to graduate from training, she had to alert at 90% or better over four consecutive weeks. She nailed it the first four weeks, our accuracy rating coming in at 94% for our first three months together. That's almost 10% more accurate than my Dexcom G4 was at the time... Even when we were just getting to know each other, she would alert 5-10 minutes before Dex would catch it-- and that was only the beginning! Now that we have been together for more than two years, Ricki catches changes as much as 30 minutes before my Dexcom does. That might be a little less now with the G6, but I'll keep you posted. She will paw at me (she alerts by giving me her paw) within a few minutes of carb-heavy food entering my system (meaning she lets me know within a few minutes of putting food in my mouth that I didn't pre-bolus). She knows if I wasn't bold with insulin, and didn't give my dose with enough time before I ate. She alerts me constantly, and sometimes, it is a lot. But my A1c improved so much since we were placed together!


She alerts on anything under 80 or over 180 or changing by greater than 10%. But really she alerts on changes greater than like 5%, because I will be slowly creeping up and she will tell me.


In our first few weeks together in 2016, I got sick. As any T1 or T1 supporter will know, sickness and diabetes do not mix. I was taking a nap one afternoon, and had skipped lunch. I didn't have any insulin on board, and was a good, solid 130 when I laid down. Ricki hardly knew me. I don't know how long she had been trying to wake me up for, but I woke up to her chuffing and snorting in my face. I asked her what, and she gave me a paw. I checked Dex, which still said somewhere close to 90. I tried to roll over, but she went to the other side of my bed and stared and snorted at me until I managed to get up and stick my finger. I was 35. I was so out, so sick, so tired, so clueless. Had she not woken me up, I really don't think I would have gotten up that afternoon. I don't think I would be here today.


I am very lucky, not only to have her, but to rarely go low in my sleep. Probably because I am so paranoid and keep myself higher, and because I'm getting more and more insulin resistant as I get older. But having her means so much to me and my family. I know my mom worries a little bit less because I have Ricki by my side.


Saturday night I photographed an event for my sister-in-law, and didn't get home until after midnight. I showered, and was in bed around 1 am. I'd had a migraine since Friday morning, and was feeling awful. My blood sugar was a little high, so I corrected and fell right to sleep.


7:15 am my alarm went off, and I don't even remember turning it off, but apparently I did, because shortly before 8, I was awakened by a wagging tail and a snorting snout in my face. I figured she wanted breakfast, because it was late, but I still felt awful, so I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. She was having none of it. She came to the other side of my bed, and threw a paw. I looked at my watch (Dex goes to my Apple watch) and saw 78 ->. "Thank you, Ricki, go to bed."


She did, for a few minutes. Thankfully she is persistent and got back up to continue pawing at me. Finally I checked by blood sugar...


My Dexcom was off. And Ricki was right, as usual. I gave her all the chicken jerky, ate all the peanut M&Ms (they're sugary enough to bring me up, but have enough protein to prevent a spike yet keep my BGs up), and posted this photo to Instagram. It's now my most-liked photo, with over 215 likes.


I trust my Dexcom a lot, but having Ricki has proved its inaccuracies. A study done in England showed that meters can be about 5-17% inaccurate, CGMs can be 9-14% inaccurate, and the Libre is about 11% inaccurate. Ricki is about 6% inaccurate.


Every time she paws, I am supposed to do a finger stick. Sometimes I don't, because it's obvious-- I just ate, or am eating, or know what is happening. But when you do a finger stick to verify your CGM when it says you're solid, you really start to see how wrong/slow it can be. It's at least 15 minutes delayed from what is happening in your body, because it gets readings from the capillaries in your skin, not from your main bloodstream. Ricki, on the other hand, is smelling it real-time. The other day I was eating gluten free Joe Joe's (Trader Joe's brand Oreos), and within 5 minutes of me eating the first cookie, she came over to paw at me. I hadn't given any insulin yet, and was already on the higher side. She knows. I corrected, and Dex alerted to a high about 15 minutes later and then rise rate about 10 minutes after that... At which point I knew, because of Ricki and finger sticks, my insulin was activating and already starting to bring me down.


Remember to question our technology. It's all great, and most of us wouldn't be alive without it. Just remember to trust, but verify. My grandpa Don's favorite saying: Trust but verify!


When in doubt, check it out! Just wash your hands with soap and water before you do a finger stick, because hand sanitizer doesn't wash the sugar off your fingers ;)