While 15 year-old Elle Shaheen was interviewed for a Good Morning America segment last week, her dog Coach had to interrupt.
He couldn’t help it. He was doing his job.
The 4 year-old yellow lab helps keep Elle (pronounced Ellie) alive by monitoring her blood sugar 24/7. She has type 1 diabetes and relies on Coach, a diabetes alert dog, to smell changes in her blood sugar and alert her to test it.
People with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin, the hormone needed to convert sugar and other food into energy, according to the American Diabetes Association. Therefore, they must constantly monitor their blood sugar level, which can become dangerous if it climbs too high or drops too low.
“Is something wrong?’’ Elle, the granddaughter of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, asked Coach when he approached her during the interview.
The Good Morning America segment discussed Elle’s journey battling Type 1 diabetes, and the book her mother Stefany Shaheen wrote about her daughter and Coach, called “Elle & Coach, Diabetes, the Fight for My Daughter’s Life, and the Dog Who Changed Everything.’’ It was released Tuesday.
Wearing his red service vest, the dog stretched both paws on the porch in front of Elle and got into what yoga enthusiasts would call the downward dog position. A signal. Elle immediately tested her blood sugar and discovered Coach had good reason to interfere.
“Good puppy!’’ she told the dog before saying to the Good Morning America reporter, “If Coach wasn’t here, I probably would have waited another hour or so to test my blood sugar and I would have been so much higher.’’
Elle, who lives in Portsmouth, N.H., was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 8 years old. Soon, she was testing a dozen times a day and her parents were monitoring her day and night, afraid high or low blood sugar would cause seizures or worse. The family found out about Cares, Inc., a Kansas organization that provides service dogs, and put Elle’s name on a waiting list. The family waited two years before Coach finally arrived in 2013 after completing 2,000 hours of training. The family paid $2,500 for him in 2013, according to The Boston Globe.
“The immediate feeling of relief came over me, especially the first time he alerted me, just knowing that he was actually going to work.’’ Elle told ABC.
Coach goes where Elle goes. This summer he accompanied her to theater camp, on radio interviews, and to Washington D.C. for the JDRF 2015 Children’s Congress, where kids with Type 1 diabetes meet with members of congress. Coach alerts her about three times a day to test her blood sugar.
The Good Morning America segment ran August 24. That day, the book’s cover was featured in Times Square.
“I don’t know where I would be without him,’’ Elle said on Good Morning America.
Check out photos from another book about dogs: Dogs on Cape Cod