A black lab named Jedi tends to know what's happening before anyone else.
Like the night he saved his boy, Luke Nuttall.
One night in March 2016, 7-year-old Luke was sound asleep. Jedi was able to determine that Luke's blood sugar was dropping to dangerously low levels, even though his monitor said otherwise at the time. Jedi jumped on Luke's mom, Dorrie, to wake her up and get her attention. Sure enough, he was right.
It may have saved Luke's life.
As a diabetic alert dog, Jedi can smell changes in the body. It basically makes him one part playful pup and one part superhero.
From the moment Luke was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a 2-year-old, his family knew they were diving face-first into a lifelong challenge. Type 1 diabetes is a complicated disease and can be emotionally, physically, and socially exhausting. For those it affects, it can become part of every second of every day.
Upon Luke's diagnosis, the Nuttall family knew nothing about Type 1 diabetes or that service dogs could help ease some of the burden. When they learned more about it, they decided to give an 11-week-old black lab named Jedi a shot.
They self-trained Jedi with the help of professionals. Ever since, Luke and Jedi have been quite the pair.
"Jedi can tell us when Luke's blood sugar levels go low, dropping around 75, right around there," said Luke's mom, Dorrie. "He gives visual clues. He will bow if Luke is low and wave if Luke is going high on his levels."
Jedi's always with Luke when there's a problem. He helps alleviate the monotony of diabetes, adding a furry, fun aspect to it. Perhaps most importantly, he makes Luke and his family laugh.
We don't talk about it enough, and we should: Everyday, about 80 Americans are diagnosed with it, but it goes undetected in many. That can be fatal.
The warning signs can be subtle and can seem to point to a different problem if people don't know what to look for. Before Luke was diagnosed, his mom thought he had strep throat. Luke was a healthy 2-year-old — why would she think diabetes? But it turns out it's common to have flu symptoms, frequent urination, headaches, and blurry vision as part of it. That's why education, which can help lead to early detection, is key.
"Type 1 diabetes is so misunderstood and people don’t really seem to care much about it," Dorrie said. General attitudes around diabetes can make it seem like it's something you've done to yourself, or that you deserved it. That's not the case at all.
Dorrie emphasized the need to educate our younger generations to help shift this way of thinking. "Kids are often better at this then adults since it is something new for them and the correct information becomes their truth," she wrote on Facebook. "In contrast we often have to work harder to try to educate adults because they have to also 'unlearn' things that are not accurate."
That's exactly why Dorrie decided to launch the Facebook page "Saving Luke" to spread awareness about Type 1 diabetes by sharing her family's journey.
"I hope through a story about a boy and his dog that people are starting to look at it different."
With a growing community of 75,000 members, I'd say they're breaking through.
"One message I get all the time on the page is from people who see Luke going through it and how it reminds them that they're not alone," said Dorrie.
"Luke and Jedi" is a documentary coming out soon that follows the journey of the inseparable pair as they fight Type 1 diabetes together.
Service dogs like Jedi come in all shapes and sizes and are trained to work on a host of medical and health conditions.
Not only are these animals amazing, but they can help draw awareness to otherwise overlooked conditions. That's what the Nuttall family is striving to do with Type 1 diabetes.
This boy, his dog, and their family might just be what's needed to make that happen.
As Lorrie put it, "If I can spread awareness and it helps, then I feel like I’ve made a difference. When you have a child diagnosed with something, it’s easy to feel helpless. I’m not a scientist, I can’t find a cure, but this is how I feel like I am making a contribution."