Service dog 'Jedi' helps little 'master' Luke battle type 1 diabetes
7:57 AM, Mar 14, 2016
The force is strong with Jedi, a 3-year-old diabetic alert dog, and his 7-year-old "master," Luke Nuttall.
Luke has been battling type 1 diabetes -- an autoimmune disease with no cure -- ever since he was diagnosed at 2 years old, according to his mother, Dorrie Nuttall, from Glendale, California.
Dorrie, 37, told ABC News that the glucose in Luke's blood can quickly spike or plummet because his pancreas cannot produce insulin.
If Luke's blood sugar gets too low, he starts to lose feeling in his hands and feet, gets dizzy, has pains in his stomach and is at risk of seizure, Dorrie said. And if his blood sugar spikes too high, it can cause damage to his vital organs, she added.
But amazingly, Jedi can smell these spikes and dips, and the black English labrador has been trained since he was a puppy to alert Dorrie to such changes in blood sugar. He brings over a brinsel -- a cloth tube -- to Dorrie and "bows" when Luke's blood sugar is too low and "waves" if it's too high, Dorrie said. (Jedi lifts his paw up or down to signal the change).
Dorrie recently shared a photo on Facebook of Jedi alerting her when Luke's blood sugar had dropped low in the middle of the night. The photo has gone viral with over 377,000 likes and over 183,000 shares.
This may just look like a dog, a sleeping boy and a number on a screen, but this, this moment right here is so much...
"Jedi jumped off the bed, then back on again, though I felt him do this I didn't wake up," she wrote on Facebook. "Then Jedi laid on me. I woke up...without Jedi I would have had no idea that he was dropping out of a safe range."
Though Luke has a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) that sends alerts to her phone and smart watch, Jedi often alerts her faster to Luke's condition, Dorrie said.
"The CGM probably would have alerted me to the 'low' maybe 10 or 15 minutes after, but every early alert from Jedi really helps," she said. "I don't think he's necessarily better than just having the monitor, but it's definitely helpful to get that earlier alert."
Jedi has also helped out the family in other ways, Dorrie said.
Jedi came home to us when he was 11 weeks old to be trained to be a diabetic alert dog. Luke was diagnosed with type 1...
"The two are the silliest two things together, and Jedi has brought so much joy and laughter," she said. "Though type 1 diabetes has certainly been a part of Luke's childhood, we want him to know it didn't ruin his or our lives and that he had Jedi -- this great dog in his life."
Life with type 1 diabetes involves high and lows and lots and lots of needles, every single day. We trained Jedi to...
"So many people assume it's preventable, which is not the case," she said. "I often get told 'What did you feed him?' or 'Just change his diet,' and that's hard for a parent to hear."
Dorrie added that she wants more parents to be informed of the warning signs: frequent urination, increased thirst and appetite, extreme fatigue, blurry vision and weight loss.
"We knew this beautiful, little girl -- her doctor thought she had strep throat and by the time they figured out it was type 1 diabetes, she had seizures and ended up passing away," she said. "It's heartbreaking."
Night alerts, where Jedi alerts to dropping blood sugars BEFORE they become dangerous in between the alarms we set to check on him. (just to clarify for people who just joined us Jedi catches dropping blood sugars before they go too low or very early on in the drop, we just call them all lows because to Jedi they are - even if it isn't technically a diabetic low - of under 70. We don't rely 100% on Jedi we have the dexcom CGM and still set alarms to check Luke over night because Jedi is a living breathing creature and can and does miss alerts as wonderful as he is he needs sleep too) Jedi jumped off the bed and started to alert (he's a big dog I always can feel him move around and jump off). I grabbed my phone to use for a flashlight and decided to turn the flash on and film what happened next. I missed the beginning of the alert but you can see him pawing the bed and yawning which is his stress signal that that something is wrong. Jedi caught this drifting down blood sugar at 72 which isn't dangerous in itself but it is low for night and Jedi knows when he's drifting lower so we can treat and watch closely - this early alert allows us to prevent as many dangerous lows as possible at night. Don't worry I immediately went to the kitchen to grab Luke a glucose tab - no Luke's or Jedi's were harmed making this video. A FEW THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE WATCHING THIS.1. Not all diabetic alert dogs alert at night. Jedi was a wonderful day alerter by the time he was one year-old but it took us until he was 18 months old with LOTS of training and LOTS of work to get him to alert at night. We still work on it and reinforce it to this day. He catches most things at night but he is a living creature that needs rest and if he's too tired he can miss and we never blame him for that. 2. Jedi's night alert includes jumping off the bed and doing whatever it takes to wake me up. He also bows for lows. 3. Luke wears a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor (an absolutely wonderful tool that everybody should have with or without a dog) it will alarm if Luke goes low but it is slightly delayed so if we wait for the alarms he would be lower. 3. At night we want Jedi to alert anything under 75-80 so that we can take immediate action. 4. My phone is within a few feet of me 24 hours a day since I track Luke's blood sugar on my watch that is Bluetooth connected to my phone. My phone, his kit, all his emergency supplies are on my headboard at all times when I sleep. 5. Jedi sleeps with me since I'm the one that he has to tell there's a blood sugar issue. He can smell Luke from my room with no problem. 6. Having a dog alert at night actually means you get less sleep sometimes. You have to acknowledge, reward and confirm every alert even if you're tired and you don't want to. 7. Oh and we love Jedi. ❤️he is family. (The baby sleeps right next to me so I'm whispering and I sped up the part where I was fumbling with Luke's finger prick he was moving around a lot and as you can see I have a bandage on my thumb due to stitches which makes testing Luke a little bit harder. Hopefully you get the idea of what alerts look like. It took a LOT of work over 3.5 years to get him alerting like this)
And though Luke is a "brave, strong boy," the 7-year-old gets frustrated once in a while and asks if his diabetes will ever go away, she said.
"I don't have an answer for him because there is no cure," Dorrie said. "There is a desperate need for more funding for research to find a cure."
Meanwhile, Dorrie said she and Luke are just grateful for Jedi.
"Amidst a disease that does everything in its power to make life so much harder, this is a picture of loyalty and love and perseverance," she wrote on Facebook. "A reminder that we will not let diabetes win, that we will never give up, and that we will always fight for our children."