ROCKY the diabetes alert dog will leave the Sunshine Coast next week to start a new adventure improving the life of a diabetes sufferer in New South Wales.
The 18-month-old Papillon will board a flight from Brisbane to Sydney on Monday on the first leg of the journey to his new home on the NSW Central Coast.
Following 18 months of training at Smart Pups Assistance Dogs, based on the Sunshine Coast, Rocky will now live with retiree Glenys, who has Type 1 diabetes.
Her condition puts her at risk of low blood sugar incidents at any time during the day or night, which can render her unconscious without intervention.
Rocky will be accompan- ied by his trainer, Kristy Graham, who will introduce the pair and then assist them for a brief settling-in period, before Rocky begins his new role as a medical guardian.
His training at Smart Pups Assistance Dogs was funded as part of a $50,000 empowerment grant from Newman's Own Foundation, the foundation left by Hollywood actor and philanthropist, the late Paul Newman.
Smart Pups founder and director Patricia McAlister said the grant was used to purchase, raise and train two Medical Alert Assistance Dogs - Rocky and Lexie the labrador.
Ms McAlister said, as a tribute to Paul Newman, Rocky was named after Newman's character in the 1956 film Somebody Up There Likes Me, based on the life of the famous boxer Rocky Graziano.
"Rocky's duties will include monitoring his new owner's breathing and alerting her prior to a low blood sugar incident so she can immediately access her prevention medication.
"We believe he might be the first ever Papillon to be trained for a medical role but what he lacks in size he more than makes up for with his intelligence and willingness to learn - he sailed through the rigorous training with flying colours," Ms McAlister said.
His training partner Lexie will be boarding a flight to Perth later this year to take up a medical alert role there.
Ms McAlister also initiated and continues to campaigned for legislative amendments to Queensland's Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dog Act 2009, to ensure existing barriers around access to public places do not disadvantage special needs children, their assistance dogs or their families.