Shirley the labrador watches her seven-year-old owner knowing that she could be minutes away from slipping into a coma. Hew owner Rebecca Farrar has an aggressive form of type one diabetes, meaning a hypoglycaemic attack could send her into a coma.
She cannot tell when her blood sugar levels are becoming too high or low, meaning she has to rely on Shirley and her extraordinary sense of smell.
Shirley was trained for over a year by charity Medical Detection Dogs. The dogs are taught there to be alert to the low blood sugar odour. Once the dog learns that they are taught to distinguish the odour from normal from low and then it’s easy for the dogs.
When Shirley notices a change in Rebecca’s blood sugar levels she continuously licks her owner as a warning. If Shirley still gets no response she is trained to go and fetch the medical testing kit in the Rebeccas classroom.
Rebecca’s mother, Claire, said: “Shirley will sense Rebecca’s blood sugar levels going low during the night and if that’s the case, Shirley will try her hardest to wake Rebecca up by licking her legs, licking her feet.
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: “.
“The dog understands that whenever they smell that smell, get help.”