Labrador trained by Medical Detection Dogs charity to save owner’s life
A Labrador named Maisie is a medical detection dog. This means that she is trained to be aware and act if she senses something wrong. Her 6-year-old owner, Alena Hughes was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was just 3 years old.
Alena relies on Maisie to inform her if she is at risk of falling into a diabetic coma. This is caused by the blood sugar levels dropping to a dangerously low level. If Alena’s blood sugar level drops, her skin would smell of pear drops. If her blood sugar level is too high her breath gives off a different odour, which only Maisie can detect.
Alena’s mother, Victoria Hughes said: ‘It’s a unique sent that only Maisie can sense. She’s always hunting for that smell and as soon as she picks it up, she tells Alena.’
The Medical Detection Dogs charity trained Maisie to detect the odour and respond to it so that Alena would then be able to take the necessary action. The dog was already the family pet, so Maisie and Alena already had a special bond. If Maisie detects that the blood sugar level is too low or too high, she nudges Alena until she responds and does something to level it.
Victoria Hughes, mother of Alena also said: ‘The charity and Maisie have helped Alena no end. At her age she doesn’t know when her blood sugar level is too low, pretty much until she is going to collapse. But we trust Maisie 100 per cent. Alena is always her main concern and she goes everywhere with her. Maisie just lifts her head up and smells the air and if unsure she will go up to sniff Alena. Alena knows exactly what to do when Maisie tells her, and if she doesn’t respond, Maisie will come and tell me so I know that Alena needs help. She then has an insulin injection or something very sugary, such as a drink of orange juice, and her levels will get back to normal.’
Before Alena was diagnosed with Diabetes, the family knew something was wrong. Ms Hughes added: ‘We didn’t know what was wrong with her. Her behaviour was horrendous. She wouldn’t eat properly and all she would take from me were sugary things. Alena would drink a full bottle of water or juice in one go and then want some more. It was only because she was always bursting for the toilet that we found out.’
Ms Hughes went on to explain how difficult it was dealing with Alena’s Diabetes at such a young age. ‘It was heartbreaking. She was only three. We had to prick her finger. She would cry and we would have to hold her down to do what we needed to do. Then we would have to inject her. I would get very upset because I felt like I was hurting her.’
In an attempt to ensure their daughter would lead a relatively normal life, her father, David Hughes got in touch with the charity Medical Detection Dogs. He said: ‘They seemed like a really good idea. We already had a dog so I was worried about getting another but there was a two-year waiting list so I put our names down. After eight months, they came out to see us and assess Alena.’
Astonishingly, it came to light that their own dog, Maisie, could already smell the unique scents coming from Alena. She only needed training slightly to make her an official Medical Detection Dog.