A woman from Maryland and her doctor said a search-and-rescue dog named Heidi detected the former's lung cancer through sniffing. The dog's early cancer detection gave the patient enough time to get the treatments she needed.
Anne Wills is the founder of a nonprofit organization called Dogs Finding Dogs. The organization enrolls professionally trained canines to "sniff out" or locate missing pets and missing people.
The 9-year-old Heidi, a German Shepherd -Labrador mix, has between working at the non-profit organization for more than seven years. Heidi already helped save 2,000 missing pets, said Wills, who never expected the dog to save her life as well.
"She's progressively getting more aggressive with that behavior, and then she started taking her nose and burying it in my chest and sniffing very, very hard," said 53-year-old Wills.
Heidi's bizarre attitude lasted a week. Then, the dog became visibly more persistent and upset. Heidi stuffed her nose in Wills' chest, kept it there and continued to breathe deeply. The weird behavior lasted weeks.
Wills took Heidi to a veterinarian who said the dog was fine. Worried that Heidi sensed something wrong inside her, she finally saw a doctor who found three cancer spots in her lungs after a CAT scan.
Wills' oncologist, Dr. Enser Cole, commented that if not for Heidi's early detection, the cancer would have spread to other body parts. Cole is the medical oncology chief at Saint Agnes Hospital.
"When you meet Heidi, you feel like you're in the presence of dog with a couple of PhDs. This dog diagnosed the cancer before the doctors did, and it's justly something to marvel at," said Cole.
Cole commended the dog's high training and highly sensitive nose that helped detect Wills' lung cancer. Wills underwent treatments which include rounds of radiation, chemotherapy and surgery.
Wills, who is currently in remission, wants to wait a whole year before she can say she is winning the battle against the deadly disease. All this time, loyal Heidi remains by her side. Wills hopes that the story of how Heidi sniffed out her lung cancer early enough to save her would save others as well.