The swimming team at Churchill High School in Texas recently added a volunteer assistant. The coach, Dakota, watches the swimmers as they dive into the pool, intently focusing on one freshman named Ben Ownby.
Ben was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was an infant, and Dakota can tell when Ben's blood sugar levels are too high or too low. Dakota can sense Ben's levels even when Ben is in the pool, and whenever Dakota notices that Ben's blood sugar is out of whack, he'll let Ben know.
If you were to attend practice at Churchill you probably wouldn't even notice Dakota, except for one minor fact: He is a dog.
As it turns out, dogs can sometimes sense blood sugar better than glucose monitors, and now a select few diabetics are using pooches to help out with everyday life.
Ben Ownby, who was recently profiled in the San Antonio Express-News, is one of those diabetics who has chosen to use a dog, and it has worked out wonderfully. Dakota can sense Ben's blood sugar levels simply by smelling him. Whenever Ben's levels are too low, Dakota jumps on him. Whenever Ben's levels are too high, Dakota pulls on a bracelet that Ben is wearing.
Dakota, a mix between a Labrador retriever and a poodle, has been a literal and figurative life-saver.
“Prior to having the dog, we had a couple of bad low blood-sugar times where he ... doesn't know where he is or why he's there,” Ben's his father, Bob, told the Express-News. "It's almost like he's drunk."
These days, Dakota follows Ben practically everywhere he goes. Even when Dakota's at the pool and has to be tied to the bleachers, he lets out a bark when Ben's levels are too high or too low.
But Dakota's presence hasn't only helped Ben physically, it has also boosted his social stature. That's no small accomplishment for a high school freshman.
"Once I brought him to school, I got swarmed by everybody," Ben said. "But I'm not the popular one. He is."
(H/T to Deadspin)