Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation Blog

Meet Dogs4Diabetics

Amazing group provides medical services alert dogs to those dealing with Type 1 diabetes

The Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation is working with Dogs4Diabetics (D4D) to positively impact the life of Colin Louis and his family. Colin, 7, lives Jacksonville, Fla., with his mother, Jessica Vasquez, his 5-year-old sister, June Louis, and his father, also named Colin Louis, a Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy. At the age of two, the younger Colin was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes (T1D), which requires round-the-clock monitoring and care. D4D trains service dogs to alert people with Type 1 diabetes to low blood sugar, even while they sleep. With support from the Palmer Foundation, the organization will be providing a dog to Colin. 

More than 1.25 million Americans live with T1D, an autoimmune disease that occurs when a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone that controls blood-sugar levels. T1D requires constant management with the use of insulin via injection or a pump, a tremendous burden for anyone and especially, perhaps, for a child and a family working to cope with T1D’s demands.

“It’s been such a blessing working with them,” said Jessica Vasquez of D4D. “It’s difficult managing Colin’s diabetes because even though he has an insulin pump his numbers have never been great. I was looking for options and I reached out to a lot of potential companies looking for someone to help out. When [D4D] got in contact it was incredible. Colin is excited to get his dog, both for his diabetes but also as a friend. I’m just so happy and thankful.” 

“We join the diabetic community in hoping for a cure of the disease, but our purpose is to support Type 1 Diabetics by providing Medical-Alert Service Dogs (at no cost) to reduce the risks associated with diabetes,” said Christy Gillham, D4D Executive Director. “Our mission is only possible because of generous individuals and foundations like the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation who invest in our communities. We are honored to partner with the Foundation to empower and transform the lives of all those that turn to our organization for support." 

“We were heartened to learn of Colin and of Dogs4Diabetics,” said Amy Palmer Saunders, Chair of the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation. “D4D’s work and Colin’s story are an incredible example of the possibilities that exist for cooperation and communication in nature, especially in the area of wellness. In this case D4D is improving a child’s—and a family’s—opportunity to live a richer, fuller life, and we could not be happier to support them.” 

“A dog’s sense of smell is somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 times as powerful as the human nose,” says Mark Ruefenacht, introducing D4D in a video on the organization’s website. “Technology has not even caught up to how fast the dog can sense the change in the blood sugars.”  Ruefenacht, who himself has Type 1 diabetes, founded D4D in San Francisco, where today the nonprofit trains and provides Medical-Alert Service Dogs to people dealing with the disorder. The group maintains ethical and industry-leading standards for its scent-trained dogs, who can detect changes in blood sugar 20-30 minutes before the newest technology can do the same. D4D trains the dogs, matches them with clients, and supports the teams for life at no cost. More on D4D can be found at
The Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation continues its namesakes’ philanthropic legacy by supporting efforts on behalf of children’s health, youth character development and nature-focused wellness. More on the foundation can be found at