Sadie Brooks has more than a friendship with her four-legged companion, Hero, a yellow lab. She also has a trained survival guide.
In December 2015, Hero proved to the world just how smart dogs are.
Sadie has Down Syndrome and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at three months old. Hero is an alert dog, trained in recognizing when Sadie’s blood sugar levels are outside of the normal 100 to 200 range. He alerts Sadie’s parents with a simple canine gesture. Michelle Brooks, Sadie’s mother, explains how he does this:
“I’ll hold out my hands and say, what is it? and he’ll… paw my left hand for a low, and he’ll nose my right hand for a high.”
One day while Sadie was at her special needs school in Utah, Hero was at home with Sadie’s parents five miles away. He began whining incessantly, uncharacteristic of this normally quiet canine unless Sadie is experiencing altered blood sugar levels. Ms. Brooks sensed something was awry and phoned the school to check in on her daughter.
Kimberly Stoneman, Sadie’s teacher, tested Sadie’s levels and found them within range, but thirty minutes later, Sadie’s numbers dropped dangerously low, nearing coma and fatality.
The school, family and even media were skeptical that Hero’s unusual behavior could have been a premonition to Sadie’s dropping levels, but Hero’s trainer, KC Owens of Tattle Tail Scent Dogs, asserts that diabetic scent sniffers can smell a blood sugar change up to two miles away.
She compared Hero’s long distance snout mastery to canines responding to their owners’ arrival minutes before they pull into the driveway. She also likened it to “a mother’s intuition,” saying:
“These dogs have abilities and senses beyond our understanding.”
Owens began training dogs to recognize diabetic scent for her own benefit, as she also has type 1 diabetes. She bonded with dogs in her youth, raising them for competitions. Eventually, her hobby evolved into training therapy dogs.
Hero is able to detect the drop or rise in blood sugar by a chemical odor that is emitted. While this seems like an impressive feat, dogs and their noses are not limited to backwoods hunting careers. Canines are trained to sniff out explosives and even detect cancer. They are skilled in disaster rescue missions, too.
In the past, this canine has expanded his heroism to others. Sadie’s school principal, Caroline Knadler, is also a type 1 diabetic. During a parent-teacher conference, Hero noted Knadler’s levels were dropping and gestured to Sadie’s parents.
Ms. Brooks said in a Facebook post that she was wary of going public with Sadie and Hero’s story, which explains the lapse in time before the rescue tale caught wind in the media.
“We were nervous to do the story because we didn’t want to give the impression that all dogs alerts [sic] long distance. They don’t.”
She went on to say, “KC even says not all of her teams get to experience this amazing phenomenon… Many of her teams have experienced this too many times to be coincidence but it doesn’t happen with every low or with every dog. So while we can’t and won’t even try to explain how this happens, we feel blessed. Even without the long distance alerts, he is amazing!”
For updates on Sadie and Hero, follow along with them on their Facebook page, Sadie’s Hero.
All images via Sadie’s Hero/Facebook.
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