Diabetic Alert Dog Keeps Swimmer in the Water

Photo courtesy Jeff Forman / News-Herald.com
Photo courtesy Jeff Forman / News-Herald.com
What do you do when you’re an unstable diabetic who loves to swim competitively? If you’re smart, you enlist the help of a really talented dog who will alert you when your blood sugar goes down, as might happen during or after intense exercise.

Yes, there are machines that can continuously monitor blood sugar, but they cannot go in the water with high school swimmer Elijah Spiro. Even though he stays out of the water, diabetic alert dog Nova can sense changes in Elijah’s blood sugar.

From the day Nova was born, trainers began introducing him to Elijah’s scent. Several times each day, Elijah’s family would take a saliva sample from the boy, freeze it, and send it to Texas. When the dog was 8 weeks old, Elijah and his family flew from Cleveland to Texas to pick him up. The dog knew him immediately.

Now they are constant companions. In or out of the water, Nova can alert Elijah when his blood sugar goes too low or too high with 90% accuracy. He receives high praise when a finger stick reveals he’s correct, but no discipline when he’s wrong. At 13 months, he’s still learning his craft.

Elijah’s parents rest a little easier now that Nova is around, especially since the swimmer will be going away to college at Amherst next year. At a cost of nearly $20,000, “They’re expensive,” says Elijah’s mom. “But when you consider the intense training and the airfare to transport them, it’s not surprising.”

“We had fundraisers to be able to afford Nova and found a trainer at Canine University in Bedford Heights so we can continue his training,” she said.

Until next time,
Good day, and good dog!

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