A Bark Of Hope

Daler and her dog hold fundraiser for fellow diabetics

Emma Brussell sold her paintings to raise funds to purchase a diabetic alert dog. (Photo courtesy of Emma’s Journey Facebook)

They say dogs are man’s best friend, but sometimes they can even be heroes. For Emma Brussell, her four-legged friend Rufus is much more than a furry companion, he’s a diabetic alert dog specifically trained to let the Farmingdale fifth grader know when her Type 1 diabetes causes her blood sugar levels to raise or lower to dangerous levels.

Unlike electronic monitors, Rufus will not have a malfunction. The Labrador retriever, as diabetic alert dogs are trained to do, can provide a warning to Brussell 15 to 30 minutes in advance of a blood sugar level event. Dogs that provide such service work are able to detect a distinct scent the human body releases in a hypo or hyperglycemic state; when Rufus detects such scents on Emma, he gives her a tap.

Of course, Rufus did not come sans a hefty price tag, and Brussell gained notoriety in Newsday and on Channel 7 Eyewitness News nearly two years ago when she started selling paintings in an effort to raise enough money to purchase her furry companion. An anonymous donor gave her the funds she needed in January 2017, and this past April, Rufus arrived at her home.

Now, Brussell is determined to help others with Type 1 diabetes obtain their own diabetic alert dog. In September 2017, her organization Emma’s Journey became an official, registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to raising funds to help offset the cost for others in their own quest for a service pet.

Emmas diabetic alert og, Rufus.

As part of their fundraising efforts, next Sunday, Nov. 11, Brussell will be at The Nutty Irishman representing her nonprofit from 2 to 6 p.m. during her Paws For The Cause event. Live entertainment will be provided by Farmingdale locals Bruce Gelbman and his wife in their band Coney Island Baby, and Phillip Gardner and Donald Bansen in their band The Rhythm Kings. Gelbman, a former Farmingdale High School teacher, taught Gardner and Bansen during his time at the high school.

“It means everything,” said Brussell’s mother, Kelly, of high school alumni volunteering their time. “It’s a great example of that Farmingdale spirit. Farmingdale just always comes together. It was nice to see that everyone was there behind her.”

During the fundraiser, raffles and Chinese auctions will be held. Prizes to be won include gift baskets, sports memorabilia, Swarovski-decorated dog gear, gift cards, a six-month gym membership to Retro Fitness and two passes to the 2019 PGA Championship.

To help support Emma’s Journey, stop by The Nutty Irishman on Sunday, Nov. 11, from 2 to 6 p.m. $25 for adults, $5 for children.

With a goal of having chosen their recipient for funds for a diabetic alert dog on or by the January date that Emma had received the funds for her dog, the Brussells are optimistic for a large turnout. As Rufus has changed Brussell’s life, the family wants to help her dream of changing other diabetics’ lives come true.

“The addition of Rufus has been wonderful,” Kelly mused. “[Diabetes is] invisible, but it’s there and is hard on her. [Rufus] helps keep her aware and he’s her best friend. He loves her unconditionally.”

For more information about Emma’s Journey, visit www.emmasjourney.org.

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