Mandy Grier with her alert dog and companion Mylo. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
April 08, 2021MEREDITH – Mandy Grier's family said the moment she got her diabetic alert dog Mylo, "her life was forever changed"; she got a companion and helped her live an independent life with her type 1 diabetes. Two years after her passing, her family is now working to give children facing the same condition their furry companion and protector.
Mandy's dad, Kevin Morris, and her sisters, Anne Grier and Kelly McAllister, are working to raise money to give a diabetic alert dog every year to one child. To cover the costs, the family has created a cruise service around the lake as well as a GoFundMe account for donations. So far the GoFundMe has raised $18,560 as of Monday and the cruise company is in progress for this summer. They have already found a good dog for a young girl and will present her with her new companion in May.
Members of the Morris family all come from Meredith. Amanda, Anne, and Kelly all went to Inter-Lakes Schools and the family attended St. Charles Church.
Mandy was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at seven-years-old and she struggled with it her whole life. About eight years ago the family raised money to get her a diabetes alert dog named Mylo.
Diabetic alert dogs are trained to recognize when their handler is having low or high blood sugar and is able to alert them so they can take and actions before their blood sugar gets to dangerous levels.
"It was her happiest six years of her life," Kevin said. "Not only was she a companion, but it was like having a doctor with her at all times."
Mylo was trained to trained to recognize when Mandy's blood sugar level went below 80 and she would alert her before she even knew something was going on. Her family said Mylo gave Mandy a healthier and more independent life without as many trips to the hospital.
Mandy died on Feb. 22, 2019 from complications with diabetes at the age of 42.
"When Mandy passed away, I really wanted to do something in memory of Mandy and to help a child with diabetes," Kevin said. "I would love to raise money to get a dog."
Kevin along with his Anne and Kelly put together M&M Angel Service Dogs, named after Mandy and Mylo, raise money so a child can get a diabetic alert dog. They are also aiming to turn it into a nonprofit organization.
To help with this endeavor, Kevin bought a 39-foot pontoon boat and started M&M Island Cruises. Kevin said his family has been on the lake their whole lives and members of the family have had places on Cotton and Bear Islands.
The boat can hold around 20 people and has an upper deck with a spiral staircase and a bathroom. The company will offer charter cruises around the lake for groups of up to 18 people for morning cruises, wedding parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and many other occasions. A portion of the proceeds from each cruise will go toward getting a diabetic alert dog for a child.
Kevin has been working to make the boat suitable for commercial cruises, including getting all the licenses and following all the safety requirements.
Researching the dogs, Kevin said he was surprised to learn a diabetic alert dog costs an average of $15,000 to $30,000. He said he also didn't know where to find a trainer or find a child who could use one.
About five weeks ago he found Gilford's Golden Guardians Service Animal Training, a Gilford-based company founded by Kaarla Westin to train golden retrievers to be medical alert animals, service animals for people with autism, and emotional support animals. Kevin said he learned Weston already knew a lot of the answers he was looking for, including connections to different hospital's endocrinology departments and contact with five different breeders around New England.
Since the charter service was still getting underway, Kevin said they thought they wouldn't be able to get a dog for someone until around 2022. Kevin's daughter Annie started a GoFundMe page to raise money to get a dog sooner. Since then the fund has raised over $18,500.
The family spoke with the endocrinology department at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover and the hospital put them in contact with a family that really could use this dog.
The recipient will be a little girl who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 4. Kevin said he and Annie and Kelly met the girl and her family.
"It was a little emotional for them because they were going to receive the dog, emotional to us because were doing this in memory of my daughter," Kevin said. "The thing that makes my side of the family happy, we actually had a dream or a mission and now we're actually giving the dog away."
The girl will receive her 12-week-old puppy during a special presentation at the Meredith town docks on May 29.
After about a month, the dog will go through a 10-week training period and learn how to recognize when her blood sugar goes over or below certain numbers. The dog will go through two hours of training a day, then return home with her family. At the end of training the dog will be a full alert dog and be able to accompany her to school and other places.
Kevin said he even found out the puppy's mother was named Mandy.
"That kind of made us all say maybe my daughter is running the show from heaven," Kevin said.
Kevin said they hope to present a new dog to a new child every June. He said he wants to continue doing this for the rest of his life and has told his daughters he wants them to continue the tradition when he's gone.
For more information on M&M Island Cruises visit www.mandmislandcruisesnh.com.
To contribute to the GoFundMe for M&M Angel Service Dogs, visit https://gofund.me/1e08352b.