A wee 10-pound Aussie shepherd named Zeus makes a huge difference in the life of teenager Evelyn Lapadat. Evelyn, who suffers from celiac’s disease, is so sensitive to gluten that even some products labeled gluten-free contain too much of the substance for her to eat safely. The standard for gluten-free labelling is 20 parts per million, which is enough to send Evelyn into days or weeks of painful flare-up.
When Evelyn was first diagnosed, her mom, a pediatrician, was up nights scouring the internet for ways to help her daughter lead a normal life. When she found an article describing the work of Nosy Dog Detection Partners, who specialize in training dogs for gluten detection, she was intrigued. She figured that a specially trained service dog would help them balance the normal things her daughter wanted with the safety she needed.
With a system as sensitive as Evelyn’s, a dinner in a restaurant or a sleepover with friends can turn into a painful nightmare. Another significant concern is cross-contamination and the various nonfood sources of gluten, such as glues, soaps, beauty products, and even medications. Zeus is able to detect gluten on the order of just .02 parts per million. That degree of sensitivity gives the family great peace of mind when he’s on the job, including a family favorite, having Zeus check packaged items right in the grocery store.
Zeus’ training took one year, and like all working dogs, his skills must be brushed up regularly.
“I’ve even had managers bring out food and ask to watch the dog check it,” Evelyn’s mom Wendy told The South Bend Tribune. This first happened at a Chick-Fil-A near their home in Elkhart, Indiana. “(The manager) went back and told everyone that they passed,” Wendy said. “I think a lot of restaurants really do take food safety seriously.”