It’s puppy love

Spread love –it’s the Brooklyn way.

Bensonhurst residents are raising funds to help eight-year-old Joey Saunders, a Pennsylvania boy with Type I diabetes, get a service dog that will help control his blood sugar.

Saunders was diagnosed with the disease in December, 2011. “Since he is a juvenile, if he is active, that can fluctuate his blood sugar,” explained dad Thomas Saunders. “But if he does more activity than expected, or if he is getting sick, his blood sugar can drop low, which can cause a seizure. If it is too high, he may not know it and that can cause problems as well.”

The specially trained dog, which will be a Labrador Retriever puppy, can detect if Joey’s blood sugar is too high or too low and give him proper assistance. “The dog can pick up his sugar an hour before it even happens,” Saunders said. “If he is at a low level, the dog will get underneath his arm and get him to sit down because he can pass out due to low blood sugar. The dog can go to the fridge, open it up, get him a juice and take it to him to get his sugar up.”

That’s not all. “If there is no adult around that he can get to, the dog will have a phone and will be able to call three numbers – 9-1-1, my wife’s phone or my phone – actually to get someone to him,” Saunders said. “Another thing that is amazing: the dog can pick his scent up from three to five miles away, depending on his senses.”

The company that the Saunders’ is working with, Warren Retrievers, will train Joey and the puppy together. The cost of the training and the dog is about $20,000. Since health insurance will not cover the cost, and there are three other children in the Saunders household, the family reached out for help.

“We ended coming to Brooklyn through Facebook,” Saunders, who is a volunteer firefighter recalled, adding that he was touched by a picture that ran in his local paper of Firefighter Joe Hunter, who died in the September 11 attacks. Joey is named after him. “We contacted his family, visited them on Long Island and kept in touch through Facebook.”

Saunders started talking about the service dog on the site, and got a friend request from Bensonhurst resident Vicky Mandaro, who then donated $100 to the family. “We were excited because it was someone we didn’t know donating for this dog,” Saunders recalled.

Before he knew it, Saunders was told that the congregation of a Bensonhurst church, St. Athanasius, would hold a special Communion Breakfast fundraiser on Sunday, May 6.

“It’s a great cause. However we can help with this kid, that’s what we are all about,” said Jerry Mandaro, Vicky’s husband, adding that the Holy Name Society and the Knights of Columbus at Cavallaro each donated $500 to the fund. Mandaro will also host a table at a flea market at the church on April 28, selling goods to benefit Joey.

“It’s actually a really big journey because not only are we fundraising, but we get to meet so many great people in the Brooklyn area,” Saunders said. “The support I have from Brooklyn, New York is off the wall. You guys are amazing.”

To donate to the Saunders family, contact Dan Warren at 540-543-2307 or go to Checks can also be mailed to Guardian Angel Service Dogs Inc., P.O. Box 910 Orange, VA 22960, in Joey Saunders name.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.