These Dogs Can Hunt: Sniffing Out Peanuts

McConnall said she inquired about insurance coverage for the dog, but was told that would not be possible. She did not pursue the matter further at the time.

And some doctors are not convinced that a dog will trump caution and good allergy education.

"Although a dog might be able to smell a peanut, the danger does not come from the oils that create the smell; they come from proteins that a person ingests," said Dr. Dan Atkins, a pediatric allergist and professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colo. "What could probably help them more than a peanut-sniffing dog would be better education about allergies, potential exposures, how to avoid them, and how to cope with an accidental ingestion."

The McConnell family has not confirmed that they are getting one of Perry's peanut detector dogs though they are trying to raise money to buy one.

If they purchase one of Perry's dogs, McConnall said the family plans to remain vigilant about reading food labels and taking every safety precaution. But McConnell is realistic about her son's future.

"I know he's going to have more reactions, that's not what I fear," McConnell said. Instead, she wonders if she will be there, how bad the reaction might be and if others will recognize and respond to the emergency. "I think that this dog will help improve our security net."

A Taste of Freedom

Jett is involved in protecting himself. He packs his own backpack with the emergency shots of epinephrine that can stop an anaphylactic reaction and McConnell said he always tells her quietly if anyone touched him or held him.

But as Jett grows older and recognizes more and more how he is different from other children, McConnell hopes that a discrete alert from a dog could help him avoid catastrophe without drawing unwanted attention.

And the peanut detector dogs are trained to be subtle. If they detect peanuts, they will not touch it, drool, or try to steal it. Instead, they perform what Perry calls a passive alert and response.

"They're trained to sit and you can't get them away from that sit," Perry said.

Then the owner tells the dog "show me," and the dog points at the contaminated item, whether it is a plate of food or a jacket with peanut candy in it.

McConnell can protect him now, but as Jett gets older, she wants to be able to let him be independent as much as possible.

"If he had this dog, he can climb up on his grandma's lap and love on her without any worries," McConnell said. "It will definitely be dramatically different. He will get to go to birthday parties, have play dates. Give him a bit more freedom."

ABC News' Lauren Cox and ABC affiliate KXLY's Annie Bishop contributed to this report.

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