Dog trained to aid diabetic child

A service dog trained to detect blood sugar levels in a diabetic child is a welcome addition to a Regina family.

A service dog trained to detect blood sugar levels in a diabetic child is a welcome addition to a Regina family.

Taeghan Rice, 7, met the dog, Keeva when the black lab arrived Wednesday from its trainer in Virginia. Rice has Type I diabetes.

"It's almost like having another baby come into the family," Pam Rice, Taeghan's mother, said. "I feel that excited. I feel like I already love her."

Keeva, still a young dog at four months old, has been trained to recognize when blood sugar levels go high or low.

"Knowing that even when we're not there, she will be able to be there to protect him and to do what needs to be done in the situation that makes us feel so much better," Pam Rice said.

The dog's trainer explained that Keeva's keen sense of smell allows the animal to detect sugar levels that would go unnoticed by humans.

James Faulkner, of Guardian Angel Service Dogs, compared the dog's sensitivity to a person sensing a teaspoonful of sugar in a glass of tea.

"If you take that same spoonful of sugar and put it in an Olympic size swimming pool with the people, the chlorine and everything else -- the dog will still smell it," Faulkner said.

Keeva's job will be to detect changes in Taeghan's blood sugar and alert the boy or his parents.

"That would relieve so much stress and worry in our lives cause we wake up three or four times a night just to check Taeghan's blood sugar," Rice said. "So this will help minimize that."

In time, Keeva will also be taught to get juice from the fridge, if Taeghan's blood sugar drops dangerously low.

And, using a special phone pad, the dog will be trained to dial 911 in an extreme emergency.

"If there's nobody else, then they hit that pad and that pad either connects to EMS at central dispatch or it can actually be programmed to a parent's phone number or somebody else's number," Faulkner said.

Rice said the $19,000 cost of the dog was a concern, but she is confident it was a wise move to reduce stress in the family and give Taeghan more independence.

With files from CBC's Geoff Leo