A Siberian Husky saved her owner’s life three times after smelling her cancer before it developed further. While it’s an incredible story, this is not the first time a dog detects cancer in a patient.
Dogs have an incredible smelling system. Their noses have 300 million sensors, which, compared to human’s 5 million, give the pooches the ability to detect smells that are invisible to the human. This is why dogs are often trained to track down drugs, bombs, and missing people.
But a special Siberian Husky named Sierra has an extra ability that she has used to save her owner’s life.
Stephanie Herfel, a California native, welcomed Sierra in her home when she was just a pup in 2011. Two years later, the family moved to Wisconsin, and that was the first time Sierra showed some unusual behavior toward Herfel.
“She put her nose on my lower belly and sniffed so intently that I thought I spilled something on my clothes. She did it a second and then a third time. After the third time, Sierra went and hid. I mean hid!" Herfel told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Stephanie had been suffering abdominal pain, so she decided to ask for medical help. But an emergency room doctor told her she had a cyst and sent her home with pain meds. However, Sierra was even more scared as days passed.
Feeling that something was wrong, Herfel made an appointment with a gynecologist, and after several tests and examinations, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It was at a 3C stage, so Stephanie had a full hysterectomy and started to get chemotherapy.
But the story did not end there.
In 2015 and 2016, Sierra exhibited the same behavior and knowing what that could mean, Stephanie didn’t waste time in looking for a diagnose. Her dog was right both times. First, cancer had returned to her liver, and a year later to her pelvic area.
“I owe my life to that dog. She's really been a godsend to me. She has never been wrong,” Herfel stated.
Sierra acted the same way when a friend of Stephanie who had ovarian cancer visited, which proved to Herfel it was not only her that the dog could diagnose. Stephanie is now cancer free and following a new treatment with chemotherapy on pills.
She’s now afraid she will outlive her loved Sierra and plans to write a book about their special relationship.
And while Sierra is indeed an exceptional dog, she’s not the only one that can detect cancer just by smell.
Lucy, a cross between a Labrador retriever and an Irish water spaniel, was first enrolled by her owners on a guide school for dogs, but she would get distracted easily by the smells around, so she was kicked out.
However, her owners knew Lucy’s nose could be of good use, and that’s how she learned to detect bladder, kidney, and prostate cancer under the organization’s watch.
Claire Guest’s fox red Labrador, Daisy, detected her breast cancer eight years ago. “She kept staring at me and lunging into my chest. It led me to find a lump," Guest told CNN. The tumor was so deep into her chest that if it weren’t for Daisy, by the time Guest would have felt the lump the cancer would have been extremely advanced.
Claire is the CEO of Medical Detection Dogs, and she believes that one-day dogs will be used alongside more common diagnostic tests to find cancer. She also thinks it is possible for scientists to develop an “electronic nose” that duplicates a dog’s sense of smell to make the process easier.