Service Dogs of Virginia is training pooches to detect when a person's blood sugar level is dropping. Jamie Hedman has lived with Type 1 diabetes since she was 8-years-old. The high school chemistry teacher said at least once a day her blood sugar level drops very low.
"I'm very odd in that my sugar can drop extremely low and I can still be functioning," Hedman said.
Because she can't feel any symptoms it's hard for her to take action. That's when her furry pal, Opus, steps in.
"Opus will get up and pull an alarm in my classroom or he will start nudging my leg," Hedman said.
Peggy Law is the Founder and Director of Service Dogs of Virginia. She said they trained Opus to smell the change in Hedman's blood sugar level.
"We take either one of their shirts when they've had a low episode and we use that scent to explain to a dog, this is the important smell," explained Law.
With early detection, Hedman is usually able to avoid visits to the emergency room and it gives her family some peace of mind.
"I just got to the point where I got nervous going out alone because I didn't know if my sugar was gonna get low and now when he's with me he tells me," Hedman said.
But a service dog like Opus isn't for everyone with Type 1 diabetes and Service Dogs of Virginia is still developing a method to teach dogs to monitor diabetics at night. Yet, a trained dog can still be the best solution.
"You'd think that technology would be able to take care of this but in fact the dog is better than technology at this point," Law said.
Law is going to London this fall to learn more about how other trainers teach dogs to detect low blood sugar.
Jennifer Von Reuter joined the NBC29 news team in June 2009 as a general assignment reporter. Prior to joining NBC29, Jennifer worked as an anchor and reporter for WHAG-TV in Hagerstown, MD. Email/Follow on Twitter/