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Nov 30, 2012 10:14 AM by Marissa Torres

Dog goes beyond title of mans best friend

A dog may be man's best friend, but for some diabetes patients, their dog is also their life saver.

High school sophomore, Luke Van Ginkel is the kicker for his top-ranked football team. On the sidelines, watching his every move, is his life saver, Astro.

Astro is a service dog. His job is to sense when Luke's blood sugar dips to a dangerous level.

Luke has type 1 diabetes. His blood sugar can fall without warning, especially when he is asleep, and if it gets too low he could die if he doesn't address it quickly, and that's where Astro comes in.

"I was asleep, he started whining a lot, and woke me up, and I told my mom I was feeling low. And she tested me I turned out to be low."

Astro has been trained to alert Luke and his family, when he senses Luke's blood sugar is low. He got is training with other service dogs at Canine Hope for Diabetics. From the time they are puppies, every dog is not only trained to be obedient and to be alert, but is also taught to recognize the low blood sugar scent.

"It's still being investigated, the thought at this point is that the dog can smell the chemical change in the body that's a result of fluctuating blood sugars. You smell the scent... here's a treat. So it's positive reinforcement when they smell that," says Johanna Reynolds, with Canine Hope for Diabetics.

Frank Wisneski says his service dog, Major, saved his daughter's life by alerting them last Christmas that she was about to have a dangerous episode.

"This dog gave us a 45-minute to an hour head start at which point she could have very easily slipped into a coma."

And so Luke keeps Astro at his side and at his games, and he expects Astro to be his companion for a very long time.

"He's like my buddy, my best friend. He goes with me everywhere; he's always with me. He's going to be with me through my whole high school football career, hopefully go to college with me too."

 

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