Mabel’s little life saver

By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on November 3, 2018

PHOENIX the dog has been more than just a cute and cuddly companion for nine-year-old Albany girl Mabel Dines.

The diabetic alert dog has saved his young owner’s life more than a dozen times since finding his new home with Mabel three months ago.

Following her Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis in September last year, Mabel is now insulin dependent and requires constant monitoring, with a glucose monitor implant and finger prick testing conducted at least four times during the day, and up to five times during the night.

Mabel’s mum Alison Norman told The Weekender she had no idea her daughter had diabetes, with no family history suggesting otherwise.

“It was a complete mystery,” she said.

“Mabel was ravenous, excessively thirsty, she’d wake up four or five times in the night to go to the toilet and drink a litre of water each time she got up…and she lost weight.

“She’s already so thin, and she lost about 5kg in a week.”

While on their way home after a visit to the GP and hospital blood tests, Ms Norman said she was immediately told to turn around and head back to the hospital, as a Royal Flying Doctor Service plane was awaiting her and Mabel.

Mabel was then transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth for a 10-night stay where she received her diabetes diagnosis.

“It was really traumatic for my little girl,” Ms Norman said.

“She’s hyper sensory and has autistic tendencies, and she had to take in a lot of information… there were lots of needles and bright lights in her face.

“She’s a trooper.”

Ms Norman said it was when she sat vigil at Mabel’s hospital bedside that she learned about diabetic alert dogs.

The dogs are trained to recognise the scent of a diabetic’s saliva and alert them when their blood sugar level is too low or high.

Purchasing a trained pooch from the United States or across the other side of Australia was going to cost Ms Norman more than $50,000, so she was relieved to find a more affordable breeder closer to home.

“I found a diabetic lady in Busselton who trained her own,” she said.

“She had been imprinting them with her low blood sugar saliva… she put her life on hold for three months to train her dog from when it was two-hours old.”

Ms Norman said that’s when Phoenix came into her and Mabel’s life, with the price tag of $10,000, just over three months ago.

“He saved Mabel’s life on his first day of duty within two hours,” she said.

“And he has done so more than a dozen times since.

“When we first got him, Mabel was playing with him, and at the time, according to her implant, I knew Mabel was sitting at about five [blood sugar level] and she has to stay between four and eight.

“I could hear her saying, ‘come on Phoenix, let’s play, don’t jump on me…Mum, I think he’s alerting me’.

“So, I asked Phoenix what the matter was, and he banged my knee and banged Mabel’s knee and sat in front of her and didn’t move.

“I tested her blood sugar level and she had dropped down to 3.8.”

Ms Norman said she has started a Gofundme page to help pay the bill for Phoenix, who still requires constant daily training.

She said she is incredibly thankful to those who have donated just over $2000 so far, and would be grateful for any other fundraising suggestions.

If you wish to donate to help pay for Phoenix or have a fundraising opportunity available, visit