Norm retires as my service dog, gets promoted to chief pet

I teamed up with my hypoglycemia alert service dog, Norm, in March 2010. This was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Norm is the first dog I’ve ever lived with and the quality of life he gave me surprised me. He was trained to smell and alert me when my blood sugar dropped below 100 mg/dL (5.6).

This service, in itself, brought me many benefits. During the 6 months we trained as a team and worked toward a threshold of statistical success that would makes us eligible for graduation. We graduated in November of 2010.

When Norm was first placed with me, I still went to work every day. I worked in a commercial airline avionics shop. Norm camped out next to my work bench, ever-ready to raise his alert and earn a treat. My biggest challenge during that year was managing a few co-workers’ expectations that Norm was a “shop dog,” a mascot like a Dalmation at the firehouse. Norm’s behavior was exemplary, the human’s behavior not so much!

Norm with his favorite dragon.

I retired in 2011 after 25 years fixing aircraft electronics. I was thrilled to leave that part of my life behind as the job was not a great fit for me and I endured it for the pay and insurance it afforded me.

At that time, I was living on a 33’ sailboat moored in a marina on San Francisco Bay. I lived on that boat for 15 years, the last five with Norm. Norm adjusted to life on tha boat. He learned how to go up an down the steep companionway stairs, a feat that still amazes me.

Norm’s alerts during this time always impressed me. One time, with the boat heeled over sailing upwind in 25+ knot winds, Norm alerted and he got his treat. How the heck did he ever smell the odor of a hypo in such stiff winds??!

I could go on and on about the help Norm has given me alerting me to hypos but I’ve found that Norm’s magic was more profound than mere hypo alerts. I live alone and Norm’s presence in my daily life gave me unexpected gifts.

You know, we all live with an ongoing personal discussion we conduct with ourselves everyday about how we feel about the events in our life. It’s the subtext that no one else can see unless you choose to share. Norm’s presence in my life brightened that ongoing discussion I have with myself.

Meeting the physical needs of another living creature on a daily basis built in me a strong sense of caring, love. Focussing outward, instead of on my personal trials and tribulations of a person living with type 1 diabetes, softened my perspective.

Interacting and talking with my dog made me feel that I was not alone. This fundamental change in my outlook on life was due to Norm. Maybe I was ready for this change before Norm came along, yet he triggered a cascade of positive emotional milestones that has immeasurably improved psychological and emotional health. The process was completely organic, the magic proceeded without any grand plan or orchestration.

Norm will be 14 next April, old for his breed. He’s still in pretty good shape but his years have taken a toll on his abilities. He can’t hear and see as well as he once did. His physical stamina is much less than former years. We often used to walk 3-5 miles each day – now we’re down to 6-8 blocks. But I still enjoy his company on these walks that are more about smelling various patches of ground than keeping any kind of pace.

Norm’s retirement means that we must give up the privileges of access we’ve enjoyed all these years. Norm will no longer be able to ride with me in the cabin of an airplane as well as on other public transportation. He’s technically not eligible to accompany me into the grocery store but I see plenty of less well-behaved pets that are tolerated at my Safeway.

One of Norm’s preferred spots as I spend time on my computer.

Norm has given me almost 12 years of service devoted to my health and well-being. It is now time for me to return the favor as his “service human.”

I’ve decided that I do want another service dog when Norm has left me, but I don’t want to overlap his time with another dog. As a one-person household, the logistics of looking after two dogs is daunting to me. I will enjoy the time we have left together and make the move to another dog when the time is right.

Edited the title of this post as people thought that Norm had transited the Rainbow Bridge with the original title, Norm retires, life with my diabetes service dog. I share your sensitivity and fear what we all must face. For survivors, grief is the price of love!


What a sweet story; thanks for sharing! How do you “retire” a service dog? If you keep him, will he keep alerting you as long as he is able? Just curious!


Retirement of a service dog is a function of the agency that placed him with you. They need to keep to certain rules in order to comply with the policies of the agencies that certify them. One such larger organization is Assistance Dogs International.

Yes, Norm still alerts on me. This habit is strongly engrained in him. He is not as accurate as he used to be but still useful to me.


I was frightened at first that you were going to say Norm had … you know … gone to the Rainbow Bridge . So glad that he’s retired for now from his “job”, and also glad that I got to meet him in person back when we were having DunConference meet ups. The first time I met you and Norm was in Las Vegas, where he held you back from gambling too much :rofl: Kidding everyone.

Psst, if you feel like coming on an adventure in Summer 2022. Taking the Catalina to the northern shores of Canada (Tadossac, and maybe as far as Halifax - of course - all dependant on Covid - as things change daily as we all know). So far, have offerings from as far away as Spain / Germany to join in on crewing! Main thing, Captain Mike (spouse) knows all about our ups/downs with blood sugars!


Thanks for sharing Norm’s update. I definitely remember seeing him at the conferences, and even included in group pictures! Hope Norm enjoys his retirement.

I have owned and fostered many dogs and cats, including 2 foster dogs right now. My older Terrier mix was trained (by me) to respond to my lows, but now 14 yo, doesn’t hear well, and sleeps most of the day! But my dexcom has taken over his job.

Was Norm able to alert you before your cgm alarmed??

With your loop system, I would guess he didn’t have much work to do, except be your companion.


May you and Norm enjoy your retirement years. I have always had dogs my whole life. I can’t imagine life without them. There is almost nothing more uplifting to a day than walking in your front door with a dog excited and wagging it’s tail just to see you are home!


Adventure planning is the best. Enjoy!

Yes, he did at times. Since the CGM lags real-time blood sugar by about 15 minutes, the smell that we give off should be present before the CGM alarms. I always thought of Norm as a separate independent low-BG detector that, when combined with other systems like CGM, would then produce overall improved safety.

Since starting Loop, I realized that Norm’s low detection threshold set at 100 mg/dL was too high and caused more work than necessary. That number was picked at a time when my glucose variability was much higher. That meant that alerting at 100 would then give me enough time to take action to prevent a bad low.


Norm is a wonderful dog and I am pleased to have met him in person. I love labs and Norm is one of the best.


A very touching story.


Dogs are the best and Norm sounds wonderful. What a great companion.


Ohh how I love dog stories. Norm sounds like an awesome guy.

I have a dog ,Thunder who is 14 and she is getting very old.
She alerts me when my sugar is high, although I never trained her to do this. She licks me when I’m over 200. I almost never get that high anymore now I have cgm. And she only alerts if I’m sitting around. Not if I’m up walking around.

She is deaf and losing her sight now too.
Dogs are the best, but the make me sad when they go.


Oh, I’m so glad I opened this thread. I was afraid it was a different type of retired. I’m so attached to my dog and cat, I can’t stand the thought of someday losing them. Both of which know when I’m low. I’ve had really big, unusual lows two nights running. Last night I woke up to the urgent low alarm on my pump (slept through the previous vibration only alerts), the cat sitting on my chest defending me, and the dog wide awake watching me and whimpering. The cat is normally sweet as can be, but she’s actually problematic when I’m low. She’s over-protective and won’t let the dog or my husband near me. We actually keep a spray bottle on top of the headboard where the glucagon kit lives, to fend off the cat in case of emergency.

I also love that you lived on a boat. My father was big time into sailing. I grew up on the water.

I hope you and Norm have a wonderful, long retirement together. If everyone around town knows you and Norm, you can probably still get away with taking him everywhere.

I live in an area where dogs are extremely welcome. The pup goes everywhere with us. She absolutely cries and it breaks my heart when we have to leave her behind. I hate thinking about Norm being sad, left behind in the house alone if it’s different than his usual way of life. But maybe he’ll be happy with the extra time to nap.


We will make Norm the community type 4


I have been leaving Norm behind more in the last year; I think he’s getting used to it but I do have to have a “talk” with him, explaining about where I’m going and that I’m sure to return.

I’ve heard other people tell me about their cats responding to low BGs. Your cat’s protective instinct is curious - a tiger mom of sorts.


Norm sounds like a great dog!

I love my dog too (hence my profile picture!). He doesn’t alert me to highs or lows, but… he helps me manage my blood sugar by accompanying me on long walks. Plus the emotional support is invaluable.


@Brianna1 – Dogs soothe us, no questions asked. Amazing creatures. Your dog looks like a character!


Dogs make us better people.
Our pooch, now 14 years old, deaf, mostly blind, slow to stand up a bit leaky, no longer able to hunt with me, has been our companion for countless adventures.


I think pets are wonderful companions, but a huge responsibility. Our almost 17 yr old rat terrier died a yr ago last June. We couldn’t board him because it made him so unhappy, so he went almost everywhere with us. He brought us a great deal of joy, and we were heartbroken when he died.

I talked my husband out of another dog, because I was too afraid that the dog would out live us and then be broken hearted. Instead we adopted two feral cats who are a lot of fun. Hopefully the cats will be ok if someday we have to find new homes for them. I have no idea if they know when I am low. If I can’t sleep in the middle of the night and come downstairs they come down and protect me.

Norm sounds like he is a very special dog.


Thank you to everyone for all the kind responses and well-wishes. Love is a potent force of positive good in anyone’s life. For those of us who live without other people in our everyday space, a prized pet can fill that need well.

For a long time I’ve heard about the recognition of the companionship role that pets play in the lives of older people. Now I’m experiencing that benefit first hand. I realize how fragile this situation becomes as my dog gets older and subject to the frailties of age. Life, if anything, is bittersweet!