Nettle

Nettle, an intelligent, two-year-old Yellow Labrador with a truly keen sense of smell, joined the Bordman family in 2013. She provided Terry and Beata Bordman with a much needed extra set of hands – or rather, paws – to help care for their 12-year-old twin daughters Brooke and Jade who suffer from two life-threatening conditions: Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac disease.

As one of the first diabetic alert dogs to graduate from the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, Nettle was already considered a special service animal, but her role in caring for the Bordman twins would make her even more extraordinary – in that she would be responsible for the life of not just one, but two young girls.

Ever since Brooke and Jade were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac disease at age three, Terry and Beata have worked tirelessly to track their daughters’ blood sugar levels throughout the day, making sure they didn’t drop too low or rise too high. This is especially challenging with children as they don’t always know to alert someone to a change in their sugar levels fast enough, leaving them dangerously susceptible to potentially fatal diabetic comas. Further, the twins’ severe allergy to gluten creates an added layer of complication as the family has to be extra careful about the kind of foods and sugars the girls can eat when treating diabetic lows.

Difficult enough to manage during the day, the most challenging time to monitor these conditions is during the night when Brooke and Jade are asleep. Before Nettle joined the household, Terry and Beata took shifts checking the girls’ sugar levels several times throughout the night. Not only was this tiresome for the young girls, but it was also quite exhausting and extremely stressful for Terry and Beata, who were constantly worried about the safety of their girls, as well as the speed and accuracy of their nighttime checks.

But this would all change once the family met Nettle.

In 2013, the Bordman family was referred to the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides for its new diabetic alert dog program. They were soon introduced to Nettle – an eager puppy with powerful intuition and a sharp nose who was ready and willing to make a big difference in the Bordman family’s quality of life.

Within the first few days of joining their home, Nettle immediately went to work, alerting Terry and Beata that Jade was suffering a serious diabetic low in the middle of the night. Alarmingly, this severe low would have otherwise gone unnoticed by Jade’s parents as it was between their regular nighttime checks. The potential outcome is too difficult for the family to even consider.

This would be only the first of many life-saving alerts. From that point onward, Nettle has come to the rescue of the twins time and time again – constantly watching over the lives of Brooke and Jade, and finally giving Terry and Beata peace of mind that their daughters are safe. From alerting Terry and Beata, to even fetching the girls’ sugar kits when they are suffering from a diabetic low, Nettle can be counted on to always be there for Brooke and Jade.

Nettle’s unique story is one that has served to inspire and pave the way for new diabetic alert dogs in Canada – she is a true trailblazer in this service animal category. To the Bordman family, Nettle is not only Brooke and Jade’s eternal life-saver, she’s the entire family’s “guardian angel”.