Elle Shaheen is an average 15-year-old in almost every way, except managing her type 1 diabetes is a daily task. But her yellow Labrador retriever, Coach, makes it easier to manage.
Coach is a diabetes alert dog who can smell changes in Elle's blood sugar level and react accordingly, reports ABC News. Before Coach's arrival, Elle had to test her blood sugar 10 to 12 times a day.
"And I had to take insulin shots every time I ate, every time my blood sugar was high, and every time before I went to bed," Elle explained to ABC News.
Type 1 diabetes results from the pancreas producing little or no insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. If Elle's blood sugar is too high or low, she could have seizures or even sustain permanent damage to her kidneys and other organs.
Type 1 diabetes, previously described as juvenile diabetes, is far less common than the type 2 variant, according to the Mayo Clinic. There's no known cure for type 1 diabetes, but there are certainly ways to manage it and live an otherwise normal life.
For Elle, Coach is one of those ways.
Sarah Holbert is the CEO for Cares, Inc., which provides dogs like Coach to people in need. She told ABC News that it takes no fewer than 2,000 hours to train these service dogs.
"We're doing scent training, 'Can you find this?' 'Can you find this toy?' 'Can you find this ball?' 'Can you problem solve?'" Holbert said about the training process.
Elle had to wait two years before Coach became available, but she said the patience instantly paid off.
"The immediate feeling of relief came over me," Elle told ABC News. "Especially the first time he alerted me, just knowing that he was actually going to work."
Elle was diagnosed about seven years ago.
"She was very irritable at times for no real reason," said mother Stefany Shaheen, per ABC News. "We couldn't really explain it. She was having trouble in her math class, which happened to fall after breakfast. And then, right before her diagnosis, she was clearly really sick."
There are an estimated 1.25 million people living with type 1 diabetes in the US, with about 40,000 new diagnoses each year, according to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.