Highly Trained Canine Assists Diabetic Teen

Posted: Updated: Mar 31, 2016 06:21 PM

NEW HAMPSHIRE – A teen said she has a unique way of taking care of her diabetes. A highly trained dog helps her track her blood sugar levels.

The special yellow Labrador Retriever underwent 2,000 hours of training to help sniff out changes in blood sugar. The family said their dog “Coach” never leaves their daughter’s side.

Elle Shaheen, 16, has Type 1 diabetes. Her family said they tried everything to keep her blood sugar in check.

They used glucose monitors and insulin pumps. They said Shaheen was even one of the first children to test out the bionic pancreas.

After constantly wearing the monitor, it took a toll on the teen. Then they got Coach, the diabetes alert dog. Shaheen’s family was skeptical.

“It took me a long time to trust him, honestly. And I remember talking to the trainer. And she said, ‘Trust the dog, trust the dog’,” Shaheen’s mother, Stefany Shaheen, said. “And I thought are you crazy? This is something I’ve been doing for five years, waking up in the middle of the night to test her blood sugar and watching her like a hawk.”

Experts said alert dogs, like Coach, can be a component of care.

The family said Coach frees up time for Shaheen to be a teenager. She still wears her glucose monitor at times but is comfortable without it.

Shaheen said after getting Coach they began to feel different about diabetes.

“He makes her more aware and it’s not me asking what’s your blood sugar, when did you test your blood sugar or take insulin. It allows us to be a mother and daughter and not a nurse that’s nagging her and driving her crazy,” the teen’s mother said.

Shaheen takes between eight to 10 injections each day.

The CARES Program helped the family connect with Coach. Canine Assistance Rehabilitation Education and Services trains several types of therapy dogs. They’ve helped families across the country.

Anyone who would like more information on the program can call 800-498-1077.

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