John Daniel Firth, a light-heavyweight boxer, owns the YGK Boxing Club.
On first glance, many wouldn’t guess that behind the amateur boxer’s fighting form is his two-year-old dog guide, Finley.
“With her, it gives me a little bit of extra security, a little bit of more reassurance,” says Firth.
About 26 years ago, Firth was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. His condition is unpredictable and often leads him to feel dizzy, sweaty, unable to speak clearly, and can even lead to extreme symptoms like seizures. The biggest concern for him is that his sugar levels will drop drastically and he won’t notice the signs.
“There could be a possibility that I could sleep right through it and not even wake up,” Firth said.
That fear, Firth says, was allayed nine months ago, when Finley entered his life.
Finley was trained by the Lions Club of Canada’s dog-guide program to help people with disabilities. She, like other diabetes-assist dogs, has the ability to smell even the most minute changes to blood sugar level in people’s breath. So when Finley sniffs out Firth’s lowering blood sugar, she is trained to alert him.
Firth says that his guide dog has gone to Firth’s room more than once to grab the insulin when his sugar levels were acting up. She does this all based on her sense of smell.
“She’ll surprise me sometimes. I haven’t even felt it, and she’s come up to me, and alerted me in another room and I’ll test and she’ll be right,” Firth said.
In exchange, all Finley wants are treats.
Firth applied to get a dog guide four years ago and after waiting three years, he was paired with Finley.
“You can tell just by their bond, how much they care about each other, there’s more than just companionship. They look out for one another,” Giuseppe D’Amore, a friend of Firth’s said.
Firth says dog guides and the people who train them don’t get enough attention and respect.
“The amount of training they do for these dogs is incredible. I was blown away by just how much patience and care and thought they put into these dogs to help people.”
That’s why Firth is leading this year’s Walk for Dog Guides in Kingston, one of 300 charity walks organized by Pet Valu dedicated to service animals happening around Canada.
Firth hopes the Kingston walk will educate people on how these highly-trained animals can help those in need. The money raised will go to the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.
The walk will be held on June 3 at Confederation Park at 10 a.m.