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Accepted Paper:

Animate instruments: dogs as biomedical resources empowering human self-care practices in Type 1 diabetes  
Fenella Eason (University of Exeter)

Paper short abstract:

Taking an ethnographic approach to the self-management of Type 1 diabetes that draws on anthrozoology and the sociology of health and illness, I examine the role of the medical alert assistance dog as an animate resource empowering human self-care practice and social integration.

Paper long abstract:

The chronic illness that is Type 1 diabetes sets severe limitations on the activities and coping behaviours of people living within its constraints, particularly among those whose recognition of the signs heralding hypoglycaemic episodes has been lost. Self-management of this illness can become a daily scourge and failure to enact its survival mechanisms can result in hospitalisation or require the attendance of health care professionals, family members or work colleagues to prevent unconsciousness and possible coma and death. The ever-present need to check blood glucose levels and balance insulin intake with diet, exercise, stress or barometric change, can cause withdrawal from social activity and employment in order to self-manage optimum 'normal' life practices.

Bringing warmth of companionship, as well as aiding improvement in health care practices, is the trained medical alert assistance dog who, through macrosmatic olfactory accuracy in scent detection, is able to forewarn the person with Type 1 diabetes that their blood sugar levels have fallen or risen to unsafe extremes and that blood-testing and insulin- or carbohydrate-intake adjustment need to take place immediately.

Observation of the symbiotic co-existences of diabetes alert assistance dogs and unwell humans as they co-manage this chronic illness, has resulted in ongoing ethnographic research which acknowledges the significance of these autonomous medical assistants as innovative, reliable additions to the diabetes medical resources arsenal: nonhuman animals who, through multispecies collaboration, are enabled to extend the illness-management practices of their human partners.

Panel P043
Embodiment, identity and uncertainty in chronic illness [MAN]
  Session 1