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Teen’s Diabetes Service Dog Inspires New Gig Harbor, Washington Nonprofit

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Lisa Kelly recently started Dogs for Cures, and group dedicated to research and helping get service dogs to those in need, after a successful pooch intervention saved the life of her son, Liam Kelly, many times. Photo By Scott Turner

By Rodika Tollefson, Scott Turner for

GIG HARBOR — Liam Kelly is like the typical teenager in many respects. He plays football at Gig Harbor High School. He likes to hang out with his friends. But wherever Liam goes, he usually has the same companion with him — a 2-year-old Lab named Max.

Liam, who will be 16 in October, was diagnosed with type I diabetes more than a year and a half ago. Following a four-day hospitalization, his mother, Lisa Kelly, wanted to learn all she could about the most current research. She found out that “tight control” — regulating the blood sugar levels so they don’t get too high or too low — was critical, and learned that an insulin pump can help achieve that.

While attending a conference on the topic, Kelly was surprised to learn there was one other, much less used tool: service dogs, specially trained to help prevent seizures in diabetic patients by reacting when the blood sugar levels were out of sync. She watched one of those dogs in action during one speaker’s presentation.

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