When technician Lisa Ohle comes to work at the office in Leipzig, she always has a guardian in tow: a companion on four paws who makes sure that her owner can do her job with peace of mind. Lisa has type one diabetes.
"Greta works here", plus a painted paw and a heart: everyone who enters Lisa Ohle's office passes by the door sticker. Greta is an "Aussie", an Australian Shepherd. A herding dog who usually snoozes under the desk while her owner Lisa coordinates installation jobs for above-ground telecommunications lines: "These include wooden masts and lines to remote supply areas, but also to individual customers. We have a total of 2.1 million such Deutsche Telekom masts in Germany," says Lisa Ohle. You can tell how much she enjoys her job. She is happy when everything is set up at the end, or when faults are rectified. When people are back online.
Duck breast in strips for a great job
Suddenly Greta jumps up. Dashes to the coat rack. To Lisa's bag. Sticks her head in, searches, rummages and grabs a black case. She brings it to Lisa. The dog nudges her owner's right thigh several times with her muzzle. This earns her praise and a treat - "Duck breast in strips" is written on the packaging. "I'm so proud of Greta every time she gets active from one moment to the next and does her job," says Lisa as she opens the pouch.
The right nose for blood glucose
The Deutsche Telekom employee has type one diabetes. Her case contains everything she needs to measure her blood glucose: Measuring strip and device, plus a lancing device that looks like a pen. She uses it to get blood from her fingertip, which she drops onto the measuring strip. The result shows: As always, her dog had the nose for it. The blood sugar had dropped to a critical level. Lisa reaches for the bottle of cola. She knows how much sugar is in it and how many sips she needs to get back into the green zone. So that the cells get fast-acting carbohydrates.
Many people with diabetes receive warning signals from their body when they are hypoglycaemic: the first signs of weakness, dizziness and fatigue. For some, however, these signals are lost, and for them a dangerous faint would come on suddenly. This is the case with Lisa, who was diagnosed at the age of three. Technical aids, such as sensors on the skin and insulin pumps, help her to lead an everyday life in which anything is possible. Technology is one thing, but it's Greta who gives her the greatest security: "When I'm focused on a task or sleeping deeply, I don't notice any alarms." Greta can smell Lisa's blood sugar at several hundred meters. Even when Greta is running around in the several-hectare garden of her parents' house while Lisa is taking a nap on the second floor with the window open. In a matter of seconds, the dog is there in an emergency and nudges the sleeping girl awake.
Greta learned this with her owner, dog training, treats and above all: "With endless patience." Lisa Ohle talks about dog training. Of hundreds of small paper towels. Every time she became hypoglycemic, she wiped invisible "ketones" over her skin with a cloth. The amount of these breakdown products of fat metabolism tells us something about the blood glucose level. Lisa hid the prepared cloths, encouraged Greta to look for them and rewarded the finder.
She fondly remembers the moment in the office when Greta first struck out on her own. When she brought the black case. And even Coke bottles, which Lisa also places in various places at home. By then, two years of daily training had passed. There was also a diabetes alert dog test. Obeying, sniffing, alerting, searching, being calm and relaxed ... Greta passed everything.
The green light was also given by Deutsche Telekom, and the representative body for the employees with severe disabilities helped with the formalities for permission to bring an assistance dog to work. As did the team in Gummersbach and the team at the Leipzig site, where Lisa has since moved to. The understanding of my colleagues means a lot to me," she says. "Everyone at Deutsche Telekom has listened to me right from the start and is very helpful."
Lisa has come to an understanding with those who have allergies or are afraid of dogs. "When I have to deal with them or in their vicinity, Greta waits in my office." Sometimes the four-legged friend overshoots the mark, driven by the urge to "do her job". Then she goes on a foray across the corridor. Instead of the emergency supplies deposited in her own office, she retrieves a bottle or other treasures from the neighboring offices and places them on Lisa's desk. "My colleagues think it's funny - I don't," Lisa winks. Because as a diabetes alert dog, Greta has to remain disciplined. She is also not allowed to accept treats from anyone else.
In demand: intelligent disobedience
"For Greta, my diabetes is like a game of hide-and-seek. She looks for the trigger for the automatic feeder," she explains, "day and night, and that's exhausting for her. And I'm glad that, as a dedicated herding dog, she doesn't understand the real danger." Lisa also expects "intelligent disobedience" from her dog. In other words, obeying commands such as "sit", "down", etc., but doing her job in the next second if necessary. This was also part of the test and was simulated: If Lisa were to fall unconscious, Greta must allow first aid.
By the end of the eight-hour day, Greta had earned a few treats. And Lisa had made several phone calls, checked and completed construction files for the contractors and sent them to them. She spoke to customers who wanted to know the status of their order. The trained fitter knows exactly how the network expansion works – and assistant Greta knows how she can best sup