FRANKLIN, Tenn. - It's a disease that affects millions of people and can result in panicked, sleepless nights for an entire family. Now, a farm in Franklin is being used to develop a new tool that promises to help manage diabetes.
Ann Walling owns Borderland Farms. She also has a son who is diabetic.
"It's a difficult disease to live with, it's stressful, and you have to always be on your toes," she said.
When she read about a study out of the United Kingdom about dogs being trained to sniff out abnormal glucose levels, it got her attention.
So much so, that she decided to test out the theory with veterinarians and trainers here at home.
"We started with that literature from the UK, which was about ten years old, and we started talking to people who do scent work with dogs," she said.
The result of their research is a program she calls 'Diabetic Alert Dogs: The Borderland Way.'
On Thursday, it wrapped up its first seven-week introductory course.
Among the diabetics taking part was 13-year-old Eva Leersnyder, who was diagnosed with the disease when she was in kindergarten.
"I didn't really know what was going on, I didn't really understand," she said. "And then my mom came out and said that I was diagnosed with diabetes."
Since then, the entire family has struggled with sleepless nights, worrying about her blood sugar levels.
"It's a very anxious time," said her mother, Lynne. "I don't think my husband or I have gotten a full night's sleep in seven years."
When the family heard about the program being offered at Walling's farm in Franklin, they decided to give it a shot.
Their golden retriever, Melody, is a fast learner.
"She went over and pawed it, that's exactly what she's supposed to do," said Eva.
Trainers teach her to detect low glucose levels and then warn Eva before it's too late.
"First I was kind hesitant," said Lynne. "I was thinking, I don't know if this will even work, but now I get goosebumps, to think that yes she will get it, and it will be such a help to Eva."
Walling admits they are still perfecting the program, but says results like those of Melody and Eva give her hope.
"We're going to get together next week and tweak the program from what we learned this summer, and then start up again in September," she said.
According to the CDC, diabetes affects more than 25 million people worldwide.