HAGERSTOWN, Md.- Jeff and Nicole Hartman have a 5-year-old son named Will, who has down syndrome and type one diabetes. One night, after Will's blood sugar levels dropped very low, the family looked into getting a diabetic alert dog to alarm them in case an emergency were to occur.
"Whether he's at day care, whether he's at school, whether he's sleeping, this could be a very frightening disease in terms of if his blood sugars go way too low," Jeff Hartman said. "And that's where Cutch comes in."
"By just smelling Will's breath he can tell whether his blood sugar levels are rising or falling," said Peter Anderson, who owns Agape Pet Services and has been helping train Cutch.
The 15-week-old yellow Labrador retriever (named after Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchin), and right now he's in training to get used to noises, distractions and basic commands.
In two to three months from now he's going to start his scent work to help detect Will's blood sugar levels. The Hartman's will take samples of Will's saliva for Cutch to get familiar with.
"Then we'll start the training process of him actually being able to smell that scent and then tell us, probably by barking, that Will's blood sugar is high or low," Jeff said.
"We decided to go that route because even when the parents are asleep, he's going to have no trouble communicating to them that there's a possible diabetic emergency," Anderson added.
Cutch was donated to the Hartman's with the help of Mid Atlantic Veterinary Hospital and Agape Pet Services. Most diabetic alert dogs run anywhere from twenty to thirty thousand dollars. However, the two companies decided to help out the Hartman's as a community service project.
"We didn't want money to get in the way of this child being as safe as we could possibly make him," Anderson said.
"He'll not only have a friend, but he will also have a guardian in a sense as well," Nicole Hartman said.
The Hartman's have a blog you can follow for the latest on Cutch. You can click here for that link.