Siberian Husky Saves Owner's Life by Sniffing Out Cancer Three Times


There’s an app for just about everything, and it’s not outside the realm of plausibility that someday, there might be an app you can use to detect diseases in your own body.

But until some enterprising genius comes up with that, there’s Sierra.

Sierra is a Siberian husky with an exceptionally talented nose and a good head on her shoulders. A sensitive soul, she was just a pup when she first revealed her talent.

“She put her nose on my lower belly and sniffed so intently that I thought I spilled something on my clothes,” her owner, Stephanie Herfel, told Journal Sentinel.

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“She did it a second and then a third time. After the third time, Sierra went and hid. I mean hid!”

“To see her become so afraid was spooky in its own right,” Herfel continued. “So I made an appointment with a gynecologist and in a matter of weeks and some blood work with an ultrasound, on 11-11-13 I was sitting in the gynecology oncologist room in shock that I had cancer.”

She had stage 3C ovarian cancer. After having surgery to remove the affected organ, Herfel went through chemotherapy.

But in 2015, Sierra acted strange again. She had a very distinct pattern: catch the scent, and then run away and hide in the closet. Herfel’s heart must have sunk as she headed to the doctor’s to see if her dog was, once again, correct.

She was. Sierra detected cancer in Herfel three times total, and her gift is not limited to her immediate owner.

“I just feel like my story can let people think about their animals and think, ‘Wow, my animal did this when I got diagnosed,'” Herfel said. “Just to give the animals credit that they are pretty smart.”

There were times when Sierra did her sniff-and-hide routine with confirmed cancer patients, but she also showed her amazing talent with a stranger who visited the house to do repairs. The Herfels made sure to contact the overseer to let him know his worker should probably get checked out.

Sierra is rare among animals for her particular talent, but there are other dogs out there who have the same gift. It’s a rather holistic and painless method of diagnosis and has a very high rate of accuracy.

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“I owe my life to that dog,” Herfel admitted. “She’s really been a godsend to me. She has never been wrong.”

While the three-time cancer survivor is doing OK at the moment, she’s hopeful that advancements will be made quickly, and that more treatments will become available.

“There are things that are coming out new every day,” she said. “That’s how I live my life. I’m going to do the best thing I can do at the time until the next best thing comes along.”

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking