Elle & Coach
"I left her bedroom in awe. This was no coincidence. This
wasn't some fluke...That dog woke me up to tell me that my daughter
was in danger. And he was right."
I was about halfway through a book on how dogs experience the
world when I spotted a volume on a spectacular example of how a
special dog can add immeasurably to the life of a youngster dealing
with chronic illness. Stefany Shaheen's Elle & Coach is a must read
for dog lovers and affecianados of uplifting narratives.
Shaheen was on a long awaited vacation trip with her husband and
four young children when she became embroiled in one of parents' worst
nightmares. Her oldest child, Elle, just was not herself. She was
behaving differently, losing weight, and having to pee too often. A
trip to the doctor and a urine test revealed a frightening diagnosis:
Shaheen's life became centered around her child's plight. She
had to keep Elle's blood sugars within a narrow range, a role normally
performed automatically by the pancreas. Too much or too little could
lead to medical crisis. Blood tests had to be performed frequently
each day and in the middle of the night. Insulin injections had to be
carefully calculated, taking into account factors ranging from food
and activity level to ambient temperature and hormones. There was
always something new to adjust to.
When she first heard of medic-alert dogs, Shaheen was
skeptical. It seemed an aweful stretch to believe that a canine could
monitor a person's blood sugars. Still she agreed to give it a try
and welcomed into her home and family a creature who changed Elle's
life for the better, even paving a path toward eventual adult
Even a confirmed cat person like me can find the aaw factor in
Elle & Coach. If you are a dog lover don't deprive yourself of the
chance to read this fine book. It will make your heart sing.
On a personal note, UMaine's Out of the Darkness (suicide awareness
and prevention) walk went really well. I laid a white carnation in
the river in memory of my cousin who killed himself, leaving three
young children behind. There were so many flowers floating together.
I talked to a woman who lost her beloved son. She was telling me how
her life was never again the same. When my son came by with laundry
for me to do I was ever so happy to see his living self.
A great big shout goes out to my chum, Shane, who organized the whole
thing and the exceptional crew who helped him make it something special.
Sent from my iPod