Service dog joins local family

The newest member of the Zack family is still just a few months old, but he has a pretty important job.

Nero, a yellow Labrador service dog from Warren Retrievers, recently arrived at the Trumbull home of the Zack family. Almost a year ago to the day that Nero arrived, 7-year-old Nathan Zack was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Nero is being trained to detect when Nathan’s blood sugar gets low.

The family heard about service dogs for diabetes through a friend on Facebook whose daughter also has type 1 diabetes. The family contacted Warren Retrievers and was put on a waiting list and did some fund raising for Nero.

“It’s been a long road,” Nathan’s mother, Adrienne Zack, said of the process to get the dog. Nero arrived last week and became fast friends with Nathan and his sister.

“It’s nice to see the bond the two of them have already — they sleep in the same bed,” Adrienne Zack said. “It’s a lot of responsibility but Nathan is doing really well.”

Now Nero is learning the ropes and Nathan and his parents are being trained as handlers of the dog. Philip Farris of Warren Retrievers is training the dog and also training the family how to handle him.

“Nathan is the primary handler, but because of his age his father and I are also handlers,” Adrienne Zack said.

How does Nero detect when Nathan’s blood sugar is low? It’s all in the power of the nose, according to Farris.

“The best way to explain it is if you put a spoonful of sugar in a cup of water, you can smell it,” Farris said. “He can smell that spoonful if you put it in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.”

When Nero completes his training he will be able smell when Nathan’s blood sugar is low and alert someone by nudging or acting up.

Farris will be returning to the family on a fairly regular basis over the next couple of years to monitor Nero’s progress.

“It’s nice that they stay with you through the long haul,” Adrienne Zack said.

Nero and the family stopped by Daniels Farm School last Friday, where Nathan is a student in Mary Schultz’s first grade class. As Nero walked in front of the school building, the little faces of Nathan’s first grade classmates were pressed up against the window to get a look at Nero.

Nero won’t be attending school with Nathan, because of student allergies, but he will be going pretty much everywhere else with Nathan.

“I think it’s wonderful they have the dog and it will help him be more independent, school nurse Marie Ely said. “He’s already been amazing.”

Nathan’s mother said Ely provides great care while Nathan is in school, so they aren’t concerned about leaving Nero home during school. She said they are grateful for all the support they received leading up to Nero’s arrival.

“A lot of people in Trumbull really made this happen for Nathan,” she said.