Ron Santo Diabetic Dog Foundation

Ron's Story

Ron had two goals that were very important to him. The first was to be inducted into The Baseball Hall of Fame. He accomplished that in 2012 and was the only player to have attained that great honor while playing his entire career with type 1 diabetes.(click on Induction Speech for Ron Santo) During that pursuit his other goal became crystal clear. It was to raise money to find a cure for diabetes but also to help others to live productive and independent lives while dealing with all the complications that may come with the disease.

Many times we are given things that we don’t understand or appreciate until we no longer have them. I guess that is what happened to Ron and I with our dog Joker.

Ron was always a dog lover. We had many dogs during our 32 years together. Each of them held special places in our hearts, and they always had great purpose, even if it was just to be a pet, companion or a furry friend to greet us at the door when we came home. When Ron started having complications from diabetes, a dog named Joker came into our lives. We had just lost our border collie Duke and decided to get an Australian shepherd. Joker was just turning two years old and had been a show dog from Canada. He had a sense of order about him that was hard to explain. If things weren't just right, he would sit by me and pant until I fixed the problem. A small example was if the cat (also diabetic) would get on the kitchen counter, Joker would come and get me. He would sit and pant in my face until I moved the cat. I should have realized then that he was a special dog.

The complications of vascular disease had already caused Ron to have the left leg amputated in 2001 and the right one in 2002. As Joker settled into our lives he would come to me if Ron was having low sugars. I didn't know anything about diabetic alert dogs but we had a natural in Joker. When frustration and stress was at a high level, Joker would come to me and pant until I told him everything was o.k.

Ron was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2003 that then returned in 2010. While we were waiting for confirmation of the biopsy, we were sitting in our living room and Joker sat next to Ron, with his paw on his knee. Ron looked at me and said,"He knows". After two rounds of chemo therapy, Ron's kidneys shut down and he passed away. Five weeks later Joker was losing his balance when he was walking. I prayed to God, “please God, you took my husband, don’t take my dog too." A trip to the vet, and my worst fear came true. Joker’s kidneys were shutting down, they were filled with cancer. As the vet put him to sleep, I put my hand over his eyes and told him," joker, you did your job to help me, help Ron". I now look back and see how special Joker was and see that he was meant to be with Ron.

Because of what Joker had done, I felt that this is something that Ron would have wanted to share with all diabetics. These amazing dogs are professionally trained to alert when blood sugars change. A chemical is released that the dogs smell as much as 30 minutes before it will show up on the glucose-meter. It gives the diabetic time to either eat if necessary or take insulin. By keeping the blood sugars as close to normal as possible, perhaps we can help eliminate the complications that Ron lived with. By spreading the word, Ron’s other goal can be accomplished. To help diabetics lead normal lives and have a special companion that will do their job and alert to changing blood sugars.

Please help us by spreading the word and donate so we can help those in need to get an alert dog.

Thank you for your help,

Vicki Santo