When Lauren Gauthier, 42, started saving abandoned hunting dogs’ lives, she never imagined that one would someday return the favor.
Lauren, from East Amherst, New York, is an attorney and the founder of Magic’s Mission Beagle and Hound Rescue Inc., an organization that rescues and rehomes abandoned hunting dogs. One day, while visiting shelters in South Carolina, Lauren came across a one-eyed hound pup named Victoria and immediately brought her home.
“In South Carolina, it’s illegal to abandon hunting dogs, so we spend a lot of time rescuing hounds down there and trying to get that state provision changed,” she told PEOPLE.
“I saw Victoria in a shelter in South Carolina and immediately wanted to foster her.”
Three months after adopting the pup, Lauren noticed a weird bump on her nose— and Victoria noticed it too.
“Whenever I’d sit down on the couch, she’d [Victoria] cuddle next to me and start sniffing that little spot on my nose, then she’d sit and stare at me.”
Although the bump was annoying, Lauren assumed it was just a pimple or clogged pore. But later, when the bump went away, Victoria refused to stop sniffing the area.
“When the spot went away, Victoria kept sniffing,” Lauren recalled.
“I thought, ‘Why do you keep putting your wet nose in my face?'”
“It was so odd that I finally decided, ‘OK, since she’s being so persistent, I’ll go get it checked out.'”
When Lauren went to the doctor to get the bump checked, she was shocked to discover she had basal cell carcinoma, a common type of skin cancer— but thanks to Victoria, Lauren had caught it early enough to be removed.
“It really is amazing that my dog was so persistent in sniffing the area that was skin cancer,” she told SweetBuffalo716.com (obtained via Love What Matters).
“The surgery itself has changed my face, and if my dog had not picked up on it, I may have ignored the spot, which could have risked further disfigurement.”
“I am so thankful for Victoria.”
“She and I have always had a close bond and she senses when I’m upset or stressed; I had no idea she’d be able to detect that I had cancer lurking underneath my skin.”
Lauren’s story is amazing— but not completely unique.
Back in 2009, Dr. Claire Guest’s labrador Daisy started acting oddly. The normally behaved dog refused to get in the doctor’s car and kept prodding her owner’s chest in a weird way. The action was so out of the norm for Daisy, Dr. Guest decided to go get herself checked. Later, tests would reveal she had early-stage breast cancer.
Doctors told Guest she was “incredibly lucky” to have detected the disease so early. “All I could think was, what a difference Daisy has made,” the woman told the Telegraph (obtained via Huffington Post). “I might have had to have aggressive chemotherapy. I might not have survived.”
Although studies have suggested dogs can detect odors associated with certain types of cancer, we are far from using the animals diagnostically. “It would need a lot of years of study and a lot of development,” Dr. Sheryl Gabram, surgeon-in-chief at Grady Memorial Hospital, explained. “It’s still far from that. People just thought it was too massive to embark on.”
Dr. Guest, who now trains dogs to detect disease, says: “Our dogs have higher rates of reliability than most of the existing tests. We know their sense of smell is extraordinary.”
“They can detect parts per trillion— that’s the equivalent of one drop of blood in two Olympic sized swimming pools.”
“We should not be turning our backs on these highly sensitive bio-detectors just because they have furry coats.”
Hear Lauren’s story below!
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Source: Time Inc. People via Tout