operating officer, says Shadow's talent for sensing drops in blood sugar is similar to that in dogs who predict epileptic seizures. It's a gift that only 12 out of 65 dogs possess.
Although researchers aren't certain how dogs perform these amazing medical predictions, Sapp said it's speculated they may sense a change in brain chemistry, pick up on a form of electrical stimulation, or cue in to some subtle shift in the person's physical demeanor.
"It's a very strong bond. A lot of the clients ... say the bond is enormous, and they are one with the dog," said Sapp.
Expenses for training a service dog run around $12,000. Although these costs are usually financed by nonprofits like Paws With A Cause, waiting lists are long. Some disabled individuals grow tired of waiting and embark on the grueling task of training their own service dog.
Self-training is difficult, Sapp says, because every trace of aggression has to be trained out of the dog.
After consulting with a dog trainer, Werremeyer embarked on nearly a year of sessions and drills with Shadow. Transforming Shadow from a pet into a medical assistance dog required extensive obedience training.
Additionally, the curious canine had to learn to ignore certain instinctive behaviors, like growling when people get too close and sniffing.
"If you go into a restaurant and there's food on the floor, it's `No, no, no.' That was probably the hardest because these dogs are serious sniffers," she said.
Outings included daily trips to pet stores, discount stores and restaurants.
"We went to McDonald's; we went to Burger King. Sometimes I'd just buy a pop.
"It took nine months for him to be where I thought he was ready to be," Werremeyer recalls.
While Shadow's orange neon service-dog vest attracts attention, his perfect manners cause him to blend into the woodwork. In fact, he's so nonintrusive that several people have nearly stepped on him.
Still, Werremeyer was berated for bringing her dog into several establishments. Although Title 3 of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act allows disabled people to bring service dogs into public establishments, Werremeyer said, a Postal Service employee refused to mail her packages unless she tied Shadow up outside the building. She left in tears.
On several occasions, diners made scenes in restaurants.
A woman said she didn't want to eat in the same room as a dog and asked to be moved. One man stormed out.
However, unkind people are in the minority, Werremeyer said, adding that most individuals are supportive, albeit curious.
"People ask questions, but that's also a good thing," she said. "It gets me talking to strangers.
"For the most part, people in Spokane are really good about service dogs."
Shadow's calming presence has not only improved Werremeyer's health, it has boosted her confidence.
"He's actually a dual service dog because he also helps me relax enough where I can carry on conversations," Werremeyer said.
Before Shadow, diabetes sent Werremeyer to the emergency room three to four times a year.
"Since I've had him, I've never had to be taken to the hospital for low blood sugar. He's always caught it before I pass out," she said.
"The lowest he's ever let it go was 50."
Still, when the vest comes off, this working dog enjoys his down time.
"He loves to run after his toys, play tug-of-war and sleep," she said. "Probably one of the things he'll do that's destructive is, if I'm not playing with him enough, he'll grab a piece of paper and shred it.
"He's a typical dog."