Four-year-old Sadie has not had an easy life, but she has a great deal of love and support in the form of a wonderful family and her dog, Hero. Hero is a diabetic alert dog who recently detected a dangerous drop in Sadie’s blood sugar from over five miles away. She has Type 1 Diabetes.
Sadie was at school that day in December 2015, and Hero was home with her mother Michelle. “He’s normally a very quiet dog, Michelle told KUTV. “Whining is not in his protocol. But he just started whining and he would not stop.”
Hero was bred for his craft, having been “scent imprinted” at a very young age. Michelle is well-attuned to his alerts; when Sadie’s sugar levels drop below 100, Hero will nudge Michelle’s left hand. If she rises above 200, he nudges the right.
Sadie’s mom was in a bit of disbelief when Hero did the former while Sadie was so far away, but she called the school anyway. Sadie’s teachers are used to checking her blood sugar while she’s with them, so it wasn’t a surprise when Michelle asked Ms. Stoneman to take a look at her numbers. “I tested her and it was fine,” said Stoneman. “Then within half an hour she went down.”
In fact, the drop was so steep it became quite dangerous for Sadie. Michelle explains that “lows,” rather than rises in blood sugar, represent more immediate danger. Dropping too low could cause Sadie to fall into a diabetic coma and possibly lose her life.
But how was Hero able to detect the change from so many miles away? These dogs’ noses are sometimes able to sense these things across one or two miles, but five? The school principal Sarah Knadler was even taken aback, saying “I’ll be honest, it kinda blew my mind.” She’s not the only one.
It occurred to them that Hero’s alert couldn’t have been based on scent alone. The dog’s trainer from puppyhood, KC Owens, believes something else happened that day. She said in an interview:
How do dogs know when their owners are coming home? There’s another piece of it, that I call, ‘God only knows.’
“I think it’s like mother’s intuition. These dogs have abilities and senses beyond our understanding,” Sadie’s dad added. “That’s why we’re thankful to have Hero, he’s the one who saves her more times than not.”
As this amazing story makes its rounds, one question that has repeatedly surfaced is why Sadie does not bring Hero to school with her. And the reason is this: At four years old and also having been born with Down Syndrome, Sadie is not capable of acting as Hero’s handler, which he needs if he is to accompany her. Her family does not feel comfortable asking the already-busy teachers to do the job, and don’t think it’s a necessary expense to hire one—Sadie’s teachers are very well equipped as it is to make sure she’s safe.
Sadie is also non-verbal, which means that even if she had Hero with her at school she would not be able to communicate his alerts to an adult. “She is developmentally the equivalent of a 2 year old,” Michelle writes on Facebook, and would not be able to recognize the meaning of an alert herself.
Another point that has continued to come up is in regards to Hero’s weight. Sadie’s family has received criticism for allowing their dog to become “obese.” They do not deny that Hero is a little overweight, but it is important to note that he is a British Lab—unlike the long-legged, leaner American lab, the British counterpart is characteristically shorter and wider with a “blocky” look about them. Even still, Hero’s weight is something his family has been dealing with for some time with frequent visits to the vet and a very strict diet. They are in the process of determining why he has a tough time shedding the pounds.
Despite this, the family is incredibly grateful to have Hero in their lives, and he far surpasses the ability of any technology Sadie uses. “I’ve always called Sadie our little angel, and I think Hero was a little angel sent into our lives to watch over her,” her dad said.
These two are so lucky to have found each other, and they have many great years ahead of them. You can follow their journey on his Facebook page, Sadie’s Hero.