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Cancer Sniffing Dogs

I love dogs, but I don’t actually have one of my own. It is an issue of space for me. I’d want my dog to have room to go do the things that dogs do in their free time.

Also, I don’t want to pick up poop.

Looking A Gift Dog In The Mouth

U.S. and coalition servicemembers, civilians, ...

Dogs, just for a point of reference in this discussion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dogs are great, not just because of their loyalty, but because of their eagerness and versatility. They can be trained to do so much. Dogs work to keep us safe and detect smugglers at airports. They assist the blind. Companion dogs improve the lifespan of the elderly. I knew a dog who assisted a war veteran in managing the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress.

You don’t see that sort of thing from a parrot.

The work that canines do is expanding. I read that dogs are learning to sniff out and detect ovarian cancer. That is very cool; I dislike cancer more than I like dogs. As cool as it is that dogs can help us in that way, I’ve decided that I do not want a cancer smelling dog.

Obviously, I am not going to get a dog and give him this very specialized training. So the only way I’d end up with one is if I adopted an older cancer smelling dog who was ready for retirement.

Having a dog who could smell cancer would not be a relaxing experience. The day I picked up my new, old dog I would start feeling frustrated. One day, I’d be a no dog guy. The next, I’d have a dog. People would have questions. I’d have a great story of how I adopted this heroic dog as my companion. It would be the greatest story I could never tell.

The greatest story I could never tell doesn’t reflect the true problem. If I adopted a retired cancer sniffing dog, I’d remain capable of telling you the story. If I told you the story, you’d like it. Later (maybe a week, perhaps a year) knowing the story of my dog would bother you.

Sit, Jerry, Sit. On Second Thought, Stand.

Many working dogs signal when they’ve found what they’re looking for by sitting down. Looking for drugs? The dog sits down next to the package with the dope. Looking for a bomb? Sit. Cancer? Sit.

Bert (right) and Ernie (left) with his rubber ...

Not this Bert, another one. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sitting is a problem. The sitting down signal would be the reason my dog’s heroic earlier life would stay a secret.

Suppose my dog (let’s call him Jerry) and I went out for some exercise. As we got back home, our neighbor Bert might be getting his mail. Bert and I would catch up on neighborhood events. Jerry, tired from a three-mile walk, might sit down.  Bert would be on edge for the rest of our conversation. He’s not going to factor in that the poor dog is only tired. All he’d process is that “the cancer dog” sat down.

I’d teach Jerry to chase and catch a Frisbee. He’d deserve a little fun after his years of diagnosing people. But even a game of Frisbee with my cancer detecting dog would have potentially difficult implications.

We’d have a grand time; Jerry would retrieve my Frisbee over and over. Then I’d accidentally over throw him. The disc would land near a woman reading a book under a tree. Jerry would run over, look at the Frisbee, then at the woman. He’d turn, face me and sit down. I’d shake my head no, but he’d give me the sad “I’m sorry” head nod.

Is there etiquette for a situation like that? Going up to a stranger and suggesting she get a physical is out. Walking away and acting like Jerry didn’t just sit down and give me the bad news is against the ethics of good pet ownership.

Responsible Pet Ownership

Adopting and rescuing pets is a great thing to do. If I ever do get a dog, it will be a rescue.

But I am not cut out for cancer dog rescue. Perhaps you are.

If you are, please remember to spay or neuter. And tell people your dog is in the witness protection program.

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22 Comments on “Cancer Sniffing Dogs”

  1. I’m on the opposite side of the fence…I would prefer a parrot over a dog…or a penguin.

  2. A cancer-sniffing parrot would be worse. Blabbermouths.

  3. Laura says:

    The problem is that the dog isn’t trained enough. Instead of leaving it to you to break the news, the dog should deliver a glossy brochure to the unfortunate woman in the park.

  4. Blogdramedy says:

    You could always get one with sinus problems.

  5. Um, this is hilarious. But I’d take the sitting any day over the parrot, who’d have zero discretion. You know it and I know it.

  6. Debbie says:

    Picking up dog poop isn’t the worst part of having a dog. The worst part, I think, is knowing just how short a dog’s life is in relation to a human’s (meaning the likelihood of you outliving the dog is pretty good, unless you get one when you’re ancient).

  7. Katie says:

    Wait a second…. Is that why that dog sat near me in the park yesterday and nodded slowly to his owner across the street? I thought he’d trained the first wing-dog, and he was scoping me out.

  8. You know…there’s totally a thing that picks up poo. It looks like a claw on the end of a stick. Can I help you pick out a dog now?

    Speaking of parrots and dogs, recently, I’ve been eating loads of crackers, and now Ozzy Pups knows the phrase, “Want a cracker?” He sits when I say it. Uh-oh….

  9. knace says:

    Two things:
    1. I had an ovarian cancer care two years ago and during the “waiting for medical wheels to turn ” period I was scared shitless. How great it would have been to have had them just bring in a dog and say “Hold still while Trixie gives your abdomen a sniff – Hey! Looks like you’re fine! Good girl, Trixie!”
    2. At the hospital where I work we have a (really, really, really CUTE) dog (her name is Hannah) who goes around and cheers people up etc. Well, except my friend was there visiting her mom and when Hannah came into the room she would not leave her dad (who was also visiting) alone. The handler (completely seriously) said “That’s so weird. Hannah usually only does that with terminal patients.” My response was to laugh, but my friend assured me her dad didn’t find it amusing. Oops. (He is happily still alive and the handler was “counseled”)

  10. List of X says:

    I can only have cats in my apartment, no dogs, so I think a cancer-sniffing dog would be only way my landlord could make an exception to the “no dogs” policy.

  11. Daile says:

    What about a cancer sniffing rodent? I could teach my rats to sniff out cancer and freak people out even more than they already do. Surprise! Here’s a rat and you have cancer!

  12. Your right the sitting is problematic…some dogs are taught to turn their heads left or right or signal in other ways but still the code would best be kept secret. One of the most interesting things I’ve learned about scent and dogs is how they smell in layers—Example (maybe not the best one) if you are cooking gumbo they can smell each thing in the pot…which is why sniffing out drugs is so easy for them. There are some great poop picking up devices including poop freeze—when you get that dog, I’ll share more. Thanks for the spay, neuter shout out,,, add, never ever buy a dog from a pet store (a breeder is not a pet store) and you’ll be doing hero work!!!

  13. pieterk515 says:

    How close does these dogs have to be to actually sniff the presence of ovarian cancer? I knew quite a few dogs who would come up to people and just started sniffing their crotch. It’s something dogs do in their spare time.

    It would be more terrifying if Jerry smelled your crotch and then sat down. Or maybe started barking. But that would probably be due to a totally different smell.

    Shit, I am not sure where I am going with this so I will stop now.


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