SEATTLE, Washington -- It's another day of home school for Jacob Haug, but as he sits at the kitchen table going over math problems with his grandmother, life lessons are being taught in the living room.
Jacob's mom is reinforcing commands with his new service dog, Shasta. When the plucky lab senses something's wrong with Jacob, her training kicks in. She runs to the 12-year-old and paws at him.
“She's telling me my blood sugar isn't where it's supposed to be,” Jacob says. Shasta then retrieves her master's medical pouch with insulin.
Jacob is a Type 1 diabetic. Sure enough, his blood sugar is dangerously high, more than twice the allowable level. Shasta knew it before he did. She is in training to sense Jacob’s blood sugar levels through her sense of smell.
“It’s really pretty amazing,” Jacob said.
Jacob’s situation is unique in that the boy's blood sugar swings wildly without warning.
“His body likes to go high and low for no reason at all,” said him mom, Mel-Beth.
After eight years of living with constant concern, the trusty companion is finally bringing the family some peace of mind.
“I feel a lot safer,” says Jacob. “I feel like I don't have to check every five minutes to make sure I'm okay.”
That kind of freedom, however, comes with a hefty price tag. The two years of training for Shasta costs $20,000. The Haugs live on one income and can't afford it, but they also feel that they can't afford to give Shasta up.
“Now I can go places and do things without my mom feeling the need to be there, or bugging me about checking my levels,” says Jacob. “Shasta is here for me.”
“She doesn’t let him cheat,” says his mom. “She tells on him if his body is in trouble.”
The family has scrimped and saved and raised about $4,000 so far through fundraisers to pay for the program. Says Mel-Beth, “$20,000 seems like a chunk of change but when it's for your kids, there's no price I can put on his safety.”
That’s not to mention the priceless companionship between this boy and his very special dog.
“She's changed my life,” Jacob says. “She's my best friend.”
You can donate to the family’s fund by making a contribution in his name online.
To learn more about Jacob’s situation, click here.