Mishka belongs to a wonderful couple who flew here from the Boston area nine years ago to adopt her from the LAWS foster program.
She had been an unclaimed stray at Animal Control and had a wonderful personality and temperament. Something about the dog's looks and description touched these people and they knew that she was meant to be their pet even if they did have to travel a few thousand miles to make her their own.
Over the years Mishka's owners and I have kept in touch and once I visited her when I was in the Boston area visiting family. "Mish" has always been a delightful pet and profoundly loved by her owners. Recently I received an e-mail from the family relating the following amazing events.
Although Mishka was deeply attached to both of her people, she tended to spend more time with the woman. Each evening they would cuddle on the sofa.
In May of this year, Mish started to pay particular attention to the woman's breast area and would intermittently nudge and sniff at the spot. She continued this odd behavior for a month. The couple jokingly wondered if there was anything to worry about and the woman decided to do a self examination for the first time in several months. She felt a lump that had not been there previously, right in the area where the dog had been sniffing. A medical exam confirmed that it was a cancerous tumor.
The cancer was surgically removed and the woman was also treated with chemotherapy and radiation. The tumor margins were free of cancer cells and lymph nodes were negative. They expect that Mishka's "mother" will go on to live a full life. Another intriguing aspect of this story is that a routine mammogram was scheduled for late September and the tumor would have been identified then but in a much further advanced stage and with probable lymph node involvement. The outcome could have been far different if Mishka had not identified the tumor early in May. This is another heartwarming example of the blessings that pets bring to our lives. Way to go Mishka!
A few years ago I wrote a column on this same topic titled: "Life Saving Advantages of Having a Pet." I pointed out that the rewards of owning a pet are many. The unconditional love that is received from them is often given as the most life enriching benefit. We now have learned that there are other life-enriching advantages of having pets. Recent research has shown that dogs and cats have a unique ability to detect some diseases and health disorders in humans.
It is postulated that these skills are possible because of their incredible sense of smell. Dogs and cats have approximately 200 million more odor detecting cells than man. Others attribute these talents to a type of "sixth sense" present in animals. There are research studies and anecdotal reports of dogs and cats detecting lung, breast, bladder and skin cancers. They also have an ability to recognize impending diabetic complications, pre-seizure activity and imminent migraine headaches.
Page 2 of 2 - A study published in the British Journal of Medicine told about a specially trained 8-year-old Labrador who was able to detect colorectal cancer 91 percent of the time when sniffing patients' breath, and 97 percent of the time when sniffing stool. My comment: lets have more trained dogs and skip the colonoscopies.
We have known for years about dog's scenting talents used to track lost people or escaped prisoners. Perhaps soon, there may be dogs and cats in clinics and medical facilities able to detect disease.
The close bond and intense relationship humans have with their pets has always been notable. More exciting is the possibility of using their heightened senses for our own survival. We love and take care of each other in ways we are just starting to understand.
Anne Divine is a long-time member of LAWS. and has volunteered at Animal Control for 18 years. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.