7 year old, Rebecca Farrar has an aggressive form of Type1 Diabetes which means that she could have a hypoglycemic attack any time that could send her into a coma. Young Rebecca cannot tell when her blood sugar levels (BSL) are becoming too high or low. But this girl has a Labrador named Shirley who is a medical assistance dog and spends the entire day with Rebecca in school ensuring that her life is not in danger. Rebecca has to rely on Shirley's extraordinary sense of smell. Shirley has been trained for about a year to sniff this problem by the charity Medical Detection Dogs.
When the dog notices a change in Rebecca's blood sugar levels she continuously licks her until Rebecca or her teacher notices this. Still if Shirley gets no response with this, she sits on Rebecca's lap or has been trained to go and fetch the medical testing kit in the classroom at Harpole Primary School in Northamptonshire. Once Shirley has done her job, classroom assistant Theresa Hodgkiss, tests Rebecca's blood sugar level and if it is low, she gives her some sugar, and if it is too high, she administers an insulin injection.
AdvertisementRebecca's mother, Claire, said, "If Shirley can't wake her up during the night she comes into my bedroom and gets me up. It's like Lassie." Claire Guest from Medical Detection Dogs said, "We taught the dogs to be alert to low blood sugar odor and once the dog learns that we teach them to distinguish normal from low and then it's easy from then on."