Skipper's big arrival: 4-year-old with Type 1 diabetes gets alert dog

4-year-old Nathaniel Dale got a delivery he's been waiting for for almost a year. Skipper, his diabetic alert dog, arrived in Happy Valley-Goose Bay earlier this week.

Skipper travelled from Las Vegas to Happy Valley-Goose Bay to become Nathaniel Dale's diabetic alert dog

Nathaniel and Rhea Dale meeting Skipper for the first time. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

After nearly a year of waiting, Nathaniel Dale and his family now have a better way to monitor the 4-year-old's Type 1 diabetes — not to mention a new best friend.

Skipper, a diabetic alert dog, was brought all the way from Las Vegas to his new home in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Tuesday.

"It's just more peace of mind," said Rhea Dale, Nathaniel's mother.

"He's so young. I find that we really encourage him to label his highs and his lows, but it's a big responsibility for a little boy."

Skipper went to work almost immediately, alerting that Nathaniel's blood sugar was high. While having the dog doesn't replace the family's responsibility to regularly check his blood sugars, it is added security.

"It just makes diabetes a bit more fun for him," Dale said.

Skipper the dog arrives in Happy Valley-Goose Bay from Las Vegas. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

This is the furthest Diabetic Alert Dogs of America has travelled to deliver a dog. Dale reached across the border to the private company because restrictions in Canada were too stringent.

"I do wish it was more available," Dale said. 

False starts

Skipper is the fourth dog the American company has delivered to Canada, and was one of its more remote deliveries.

"To my knowledge, we're the only ones who've branched out to Canada," Edwin Peeples, of Diabetic Alert Dogs of America, said. 

Edwin Peeples of Diabetic Alert Dogs of America delivered Skipper to Happy Valley-Goose Bay this week. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"We're a regular for-profit company just like Tim Hortons … For parents like this who would rather just pick up the phone and buy one, and have it brought to your house, it's available to you."

It took about a year to get the dog to Canada. It was the third dog they trained after Dale got in touch with them. Rex, the first dog the family picked, was too shy.

"They take anywhere from eight months to a year to train these dogs, and not every dog that we take into the program ends up graduating the program," Peeples said.

"Skipper's been a grade A student."

Helping hands

Getting Skipper was no easy feat, the family had to fundraise the $20,000 to get the dog. 

Dale said she couldn't have done it without the help from individual donations, which raised about $8,000, and a large donation from Glenn's Helping Hand, a foundation based in St. John's, which covered the rest.

"I just don't know what to say, but I keep them in the loop about the whole journey," Dale said.

Nathaniel takes Skipper for her first walk. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"They've got many years of Nathaniel with his dog," Peeples said.

"He's going to be driving a car and stuff, and he's still going to have Skipper right there by his side."

About the Author

Jacob Barker


Jacob Barker reports on Labrador for CBC News from Happy Valley-Goose Bay.