Lifesaving Service Dog Sniffs Out Girl's Disease, Even in Operating Room


"One day I was working with a local animal shelter and looking at golden retrievers," she said. "The kennel manager pulled me back and said, 'Hey, I think there is a little dog you should meet.' I had never trained a terrier before and we usually don't work with shelter dogs. I did a temperament test with her. Turned out she was great."

JJ grew up in Cunningham's home and underwent nine months of intense training to be a diabetic alert dog.

Meanwhile, the Krawczyks were looking for a service dog that could alert them when KK was having a reaction and called Cunningham, who had trained dogs in scent work. Cunningham asked if mastocytosis emitted a scent, hoping she might train the little terrier to pick up on the reaction before it became full-blown.

Krawzcyk was asked to swab KK's mouth and save articles of clothing that the girl wore during a reaction so that JJ could be trained to detect her saliva and sweat.

"I couldn't be more proud of JJ," said Cunningham. "She has way surpassed my expectations for what an alert dog can do.... She even alerted someone else in their life who didn't know she had diabetes and went to the doctor as a result."

Now, KK is allowed to go to school with JJ by her side. Her mother, who is an online nursing professor, goes along with her daughter and quietly sits in the classroom doing her work.

"Because JJ is so sensitive I can let KK do all the things she would normally do until JJ alerts me it's time to stop."

For KK, having an alert dog like JJ will be part of the rest of her life.

"We hope she will get better, but we don't expect her disease to go away," said Krawzcyk. "It's a lifelong process for her and that's O.K. Medical science can't provide us with a monitor. JJ is her lifeline and she knows that."

"She [JJ] singlehandedly has done more than any medical person has done," she said. "JJ has given KK a new lease on life and the ability to lead a normal life."

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