A six-year old girl, Rebecca Farrar, has received a new labrador, but this is no ordinary dog. Rebecca suffers from type 1 diabetes, and the dog, whose name is Shirley, has been trained to detect when Rebecca’s blood sugar reaches dangerously low levels.
The labrador is one of only a small number of hypo-alert dogs in the country, but this is the first time one has been assigned to a young child. Since the labrador arrived with the family, Rebecca hasn’t had to make her frequent hospital visits and has stopped collapsing completely.
Rebeccan, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was four, used to have five hypos every day, had to carry several sugar-level tests with her and wasn’t able to feel any change in her sugar levels. Her mother also had to resign from work to look after her, and was continually worried about Rebecca slipping into a coma.
Shirley is only one of eight hypo-alert dogs in the UK trained by the charity Cancer and Bio-Detection Dogs who are taught to detect hypoglycemia . She can detect changes in smell when Rebecca’s sugar levels change, and accompanies Rebecca to school and keeps an eye on as she sleeps. Shirley signals for help by licking her hand, sitting on her lap or fetching her mother, Claire.
Claire had read about the hypo-alert dogs in the local newspaper. She said “I didn’t realise how much she would change our lives.
“Rebecca’s not had a single hypo when Shirley’s been around and she’s never been wrong.” Rebecca added that “I can’t imagine living without her now, she has saved my life so many times.”

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