Dawn Scheu’s dog is a little more talented than your average pooch. It knows about gluten, and it warns her if it ever catches a whiff of the stuff!
The dog, named Willow, has saved Scheu from ingesting gluten several times, she’s one of just a handful of service dogs in the US trained to detect gluten.
Before Willow, Scheu said she felt trapped in her own home, so afraid of cross-contamination that everyone and everything seemed like a threat.
Now, Scheu takes Willow everywhere — to the grocery store, on holiday, she even takes her to restaurants.
“My husband and I went out to dinner for our anniversary,” Scheu said. “Willow came with us. It was the first time in four years I’ve been able to eat out.”
Scheu adopted 10-week-old German shorthaired puppy Willow last August, and wanted to train her to detect gluten. She called several service dog trainers in search of someone who would give it a try but none were willing, then she met Kathryn Watters, a FEMA-certified master dog trainer from Brighton. Watters was willing to see if it would work and almost immediately started training Willow.
Willow almost immediately responded.
Willow picks up gluten in things Scheu never would have suspected, she said. More than two months ago, for example, Scheu doused herself with bug spray. Willow immediately started pawing at her. Clever dog!
Celiac sufferers with a sniffer dog would still, of course, need to pay close attention to what they eat, but dogs like Willow offer a little extra protection.