(NBC) - One in 400 children in the United States suffer from diabetes, and while many of them struggle with figuring out when they need their insulin, the parents of one Long Island boy found the perfect solution: Hero, a diabetic alert dog, a specialized breed of Labrador that can detect when a diabetic is in trouble and find help.
Johnny Pion, 8, is a laid back kid that was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in 2008.
The disease is a death sentence without insulin, and his blood sugar needs constant monitoring. He can't even go on play-dates without mom or dad fearing he might need help.
With Hero in her new home, Johnny's parents may worry a little less.
They found out about diabetic alert dogs at a fundraiser for diabetes. The dogs cost around $20,000 and are not covered by insurance.
Through donations from friends, family and the community, the Pions brought Hero home from Warren Retrievers in Virginia, a specialty breeder of service dogs.
Cherri Campbell, Hero's trainer, says the dogs can detect the slightest changes in blood sugar by their keen sense of smell.
"Humans have 5 million smell receptors; dogs have 5 billion," she said.
When the dog detects something's wrong, she'll warn Johnny by nudging up against him. If he doesn't respond, Hero knows to look for mom and dad.
Eventually Hero could contact 911 in an emergency.
On their first night, together Johnny was comfortable sleeping in his own bed and not with his parents.
Night time is critical because blood sugar goes unchecked while sleeping. Now Hero stands guard.
Copyright 2011 NBC. All rights reserved.