Alert dog for diabetes senses blood sugar drop miles away, warns family
(KUTV) Sadie, 4-years-old, has Type one diabetes and Down syndrome, which makes it difficult for her parents to keep her blood sugars stable.
That's until a special Labrador joined the family.
Sadie's Hero has quite the nose. He is a trained diabetic alert dog, so he can tell when her blood sugars are going too high or too low.
When her blood sugars start drop below 100, Hero will whine or nose or paw Sadie's parents in the left hand to let them know there's a problem. When her blood sugars get above 200, Hero lets her parents know using the same tricks, but this time in the right hand.
"I'll hold out my hands and say, what is it? and he'll paw for, paw my left hand for a low, and he'll nose my right hand for a high," explained Sadie's mom Michelle.
But back in December 2015, Hero truly lived up to his name.
Sadie was in her special needs class at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills while Hero was at home in Pleasant Grove -- more than five miles away.
That's when he started to act out, trying to warn Sadie's mom that the girl's blood sugar levels were dropping.
"He's normally a very quiet dog. Whining is not in his protocol. But he just started whining and he would not stop," Michelle said.
He was alerting to Michelle that Sadie's blood sugars were dropping -- but he was nowhere near Sadie.
Sadie's mom decided to contact the school just in case.
Kimberly Stoneman was teaching Sadie's class when she got the call.
"(Sadie's mom) called me and asked if I could check her numbers and they were fine," Ms.Stoneman explained. "I tested her and it was fine. Then within half an hour she went down."
Her numbers dropped from 122 to 82 within that short period of time, nearing a danger zone for Sadie.
"The lows are more dangerous immediately," Michelle explained. "(With) lows, she could go into a diabetic coma right away, and she could die, if we kept her low too long."
Sadie's principal, Caroline Knadler, was surprised to hear what happened.
"I'll be honest, it kinda blew my mind," she said. "We're here and the dog is way over in Pleasant Grove."
Caroline is also a type one diabetic and has seen Hero in action when he alerted on her during a parent-teacher meeting when her blood sugars started to drop, but she says this seemed unreal.
"How can it be based on smell?" Caroline asked. "It really got me thinking. What is Hero alerting on?"
Sadie's mom Michelle couldn't believe it either.
Does Hero really a have a nose that can detect something miles away?
We asked Hero's trainer, KC Owens.
Owens owns Tattle Tale Scent Dogs, where she trains puppies to be diabetic alert dogs for families here in Utah.
When KUTV interviewed Owens, she was already working with a new batch of Labrador pups,using specially bottled scent to train the dogs to sniff out high and low blood sugar levels.
"They're easy to train, they're bred for their nose," she said.
Owens says she started training diabetic alert dogs after she was diagnosed late as a type 1 diabetic, and she realized there was a need for these dogs.
"These dogs can wake up a parent in the middle of the night for a low," Owens explained. "They can go get help, and they do this well in advance of all the technology."
With hundreds of millions of scent receptors, she says they can pick up a smell from up to one to two miles away.
But five miles?
Owens says for Sadie and Hero, it was something else that happened that day.
"How do dogs know when their owners are coming home?" Owens asked. "There's another piece of it, that I call, 'God only knows.' "
Sadie's parents have come to realize that don't really understand how Hero knew to react that day in December.
"I can't explain it. It's a God thing. I think it's like mother's intuition. These dogs have abilities and senses beyond our understanding."
"That's why we're thankful to have Hero, he's the one who saves her more times than not," Sadie's dad said.
But they are grateful to their daughter's companion, friend and true Hero, who saves her life every day and continues to look out for her.
"I've always called Sadie our little angel, and I think Hero was a little angel sent into our lives to watch over her," dad said.
Sadie's mom posts updates on the Sadie's Hero Facebook page about how the two best friends are doing.