Doing diabetes (Type 1): Symbiotic ethics and practices of care embodied in human-canine collaborations and olfactory sensitivity
Date: 7 August 2017
University of Exeter
PhD in Anthrozoology
The chronically ill participants in this study are vulnerable experts in life’s uncertainties, and have become aware over time of multiple medical and social needs and practices. But, unlike the hypo-aware respondents documented in some studies of diabetes mellitus Type 1, these research participants are also conscious of their inability ...
The chronically ill participants in this study are vulnerable experts in life’s uncertainties, and have become aware over time of multiple medical and social needs and practices. But, unlike the hypo-aware respondents documented in some studies of diabetes mellitus Type 1, these research participants are also conscious of their inability to recognise when their own fluctuating blood glucose levels are rising or falling to extremes, a loss of hyper- or hypo-awareness that puts their lives constantly at risk. Particular sources of better life management, increased self-esteem and means of social (re-)integration are trained medical alert assistance dogs who share the human home, and through keen olfactory sensitivity, are able to give advance warning when their partners’ blood sugar levels enter ‘danger’ zones. Research studies in anthrozoology and anthropology provide extensive literature on historic and contemporary human bonds with domestic and/or wild nonhuman animals. Equally, the sociology of health and illness continues to extend research into care practices performed to assist people with chronic illness. This study draws from these disciplines in order to add to multispecies ethnographic literature by exploring human-canine engagement, contribution and narrative, detailing the impact each member of the dyad has on the other, and by observing the 'doing' of the partnerships' daily routines to ward off hypo-glycaemia and hospitalisation. In addition, the project investigates the place, role and 'otherness' of a medical alert dog in a chronically ill person's understanding of 'the-body-they-do'. The perspective of symbolic interactionism assists in disentangling individual and shared meanings inherent in the interspecies collaboration by examining the mutualistic practices of care performed. The often-flexible moral boundaries that humans construct to differentiate between acceptable use and unacceptable exploitation of nonhuman animals are questioned within ethics-of-care theory, based on the concept of dogs as animate instruments and biomedical resources.
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