There is a reason that dogs are called man’s best friend. Just ask Sadie, a four year old who suffers from type 1 diabetes. Her dog Hero is very special, he helps keep track of Sadie’s blood sugar level. The Labrador is a trained diabetic alert dog. If Sadie’s blood sugar drops too low, Hero will whine and paw at her parent’s left hands. If her blood sugar gets too high, Hero will perform the same gestures on their right hands.
In December of 2015, Hero began warning Sadie’s mother that the little girl’s blood sugar was getting too low. The only problem was that Sadie wasn’t home, she was at school more than 5 miles away. Michelle explained her initial confusion, stating that Hero is “normally a very quiet dog” but that “he just started whining and wouldn’t stop”. She decided to err on the side of caution and contact Sadie’s school.
Low blood sugar can quickly become a dire situation, as Sadie could slip into a diabetic coma. Left uncorrected, low blood sugar could be fatal. Sadie’s teacher, Ms. Stoneman, remembers getting the call. “Sadie’s mom called me and asked if I could check her numbers and they were fine. I tested her and it was fine. Then within half an hour she went down”.
Sadie’s school principal, Caroline Knadler, is no stranger to Hero’s abilities. Knadler is also a type 1 diabetic. Once during a parent-teacher conference, Hero alerted the principal to a drop in her own blood sugar level. Despite having experienced Hero’s talents firsthand, Knadler still describes being amazed by the long distance feat.
Tattle Tale Scent Dogs is a group in Utah that trains diabetic alert dogs. The owner, KC Owens, explained that while these dogs are capable of detecting scents up to 2 miles away, 5 miles is unprecedented. She speculated that perhaps Hero was picking up on something other than scent, namely his close bond with Sadie. “How do dogs know when their owners are coming home?” she asked, likening it to a mother’s intuition.
Sadie’s mother Michelle made sure to mention that the situation was unique. On Sadie and Hero’s Facebook page, she wrote that people should not expect diabetic alert dogs to accomplish long distance detections, noting that “it doesn’t happen with every low or with every dog.” She went on to say that although they could not explain how it happened, they feel blessed all the same.