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.
“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.
“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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