Most of us understand just how important service dogs are to those in need of them, but what many people don't realize is that they cost thousands of dollars. But the amount that they help improve a person's quality of life is worth it.
Ian Unger was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was only four years old. The condition forces him to be dependent on insulin injections as his pancreas isn't producing the important chemical on its own.
While there is no cure, it can be managed with insulin pumps, diet, and lifestyle changes, but there are still times where he needs help.
Service dogs have been trained to work with diabetes patients because they are able to alert their owners when their blood sugar gets too low or too high. Their highly sensitive noses can sense all of these minor changes happening in their blood, but the problem is that they can cost over $20,000.
Ian is now six years old and wants to ride the school bus with his friends. But the school doesn't want him to ride the bus alone as there would be no one qualified to monitor his condition.
“[The district doesn’t] feel like it’s safe for him to ride the bus without [another adult] on it,” Ian’s mother, Katrina Christensen, said. “So, they were gonna pick him up on an empty school bus at 8:45 a.m. — school starts at 8:30 a.m. He just wants to be like everybody else … to put him on an empty bus is unfair.”
This is what inspired Ian to take action, and raise money to get his own service dog to help him out.
“He started wanting to do a lemonade stand, anything to raise the money," his mom continued. "Then lemonade season was getting to be over, so we told Ian he could have the family’s pumpkin patch this year. He said, ‘I’m gonna sell pumpkins and I’m gonna get my dog!’"
"He put some pumpkin seeds in the ground and didn’t really take care of them, but let me tell you, he grew a lot of pumpkins,” Ian’s dad, Jeff Unger, said. "Him and his mom counted over 150."
It didn't take long for this young man's charm and charisma to make him the best pumpkin salesman in town.
“He’s quite the little salesman,” his mom explained. “We had hundreds of people in the driveway. He helped every single person pick out the right pumpkin. It was the coolest thing to see.”
Between the word of mouth of the fundraiser online and the pumpkin sales themselves, it took less than a week for the family to raise over $24,000, guaranteeing him a service dog.
His mom explained that Ian earned over $1,000 from his pumpkin patch, and over $100 on his lemonade stand, but the generosity of strangers is what made it possible for Ian to get the normal life he was so desperate for.
It will take about 10 months for his service dog to be trained, but then he will be able to ride the bus just like everyone else! As an added bonus there's no doubt that it will give his family some peace of mind knowing that there is an extra set of eyes watching over their boy.
“Ian is an extremely happy kid and he always has been,” his mother said. "He always helps people. With diabetes, he’s taken it quite well. I’m very proud of him. He could be mad about it, but he’s not. He’s like, ‘This is how it is. This is what I have to do.’ And he just does it.”