Ann Marie Montello has only known Cullen for 15 months, and he's already saved her life more than once.
While the 18-month-old goldendoodle puppy wasn't raised as a service dog, he's become a savior for the Milford High School special education instructor.
"He's saved my life a number of times. He was under a year (old) the first time he saved me, and he's been doing it ever since," she said.
A legally deaf type 1 diabetic with asthma, Montello said she needed a service dog to help her out.
But after an expensive and poor experience with a trained service dog two years ago, the Milford resident wasn't sure what to do.
"I'm hypoglycemic unaware. I needed an animal to alert me to those low blood sugars. I needed a dog to hear sounds I can't hear," she said.
With her health and well-being in mind, she took it upon herself to find - and train - a dog.
And she quickly fell in love when she met Cullen at an Oxford kennel.
"I looked all around, and I picked him out myself," she said.
Although Cullen got some training from local obedience schools and instructors, Montello knew she needed someone who had experience training service dogs.
She called up Terry McCormack, president and CEO of Saint Francis German Shepherd Service Dogs in Leominster, and got started.
"Terry is a blessing in disguise," she said. "I have Cullen learning how to alert me to low blood sugar. When I'm below 65, I'm not aware ... but he comes over to me, jumps on me and paws me. Sometimes he won't stop until I do something."
Montello wears an insulin pump and sometimes can't hear it beep when the battery or her blood sugar is dangerously low.
But Cullen hears it.
"Never does he miss that," she said. "He could be out in the other room, and when the pump goes off, he runs over and paws me."
The first time he saved her life, Montello said blood was stuck in her catheter, so she wasn't getting the sugar she needed.
But thanks to Cullen's persistent notifications, she fixed the problem before it turned fatal.
She said he even knows when she's about to have an asthma attack.
"He never misses an asthma attack," Montello said.
In October, Cullen was awarded the Canine Good Citizen award - validating everything Montello and the trainers have taught him.
The accolade, part of a program by the American Kennel Club, goes to dogs who accept friendly strangers, sit politely, can walk calmly through a crowd and react well to other dogs, among other criteria.
"It's pretty rigorous, and he's awfully young to have passed," she said.
Cullen now spends his days in the classroom with Montello, where she said he gets along well with students and never causes a stir.
While she's still spending money for expensive training, Montello said Cullen will soon learn how to respond to smoke detectors, move her should she become unconscious and call for help using a special phone she's saving for.
Montello said she just enjoys his presence and is so happy to have found a reliable companion.
"I'm so proud of him," she said. "He's such a gem. He's so important in my life. This is a helper dog. He was born to be a helper dog. That's my instinct."
Ashley Studley can be reached at 508-634-7556 or email@example.com.