Tracie Cone has always been a trailblazer. This award-winning journalist is the former California Newspaper Executive of the Year. She shares a Pulitzer Prize with fellow staff members at the Miami Herald for coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew and has twice been nominated individually. She has focused her writing on helping the underdog and empowering those without a strong voice of their own. Now she takes us on the fight of her life.
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Tumor-sniffing dog?

I once read about a study that involved dogs and their ability to sniff out breast- and lung-cancer tumors in humans (there are others about dogs who can alert humans to pending seizures). I never thought about it again until – NOW.

These days I’m almost spooked by my partner’s shelter dog, a German Shepard mix who bounced between four foster homes before landing with Michelle prior to my arrival. She’s not a cuddly dog, and she never really warmed up to me, so what happened after I returned from a two-week emergency trip to Florida in February still has me flabbergasted, especially with the hindsight of my May 3 cancer diagnosis.

Gretta doesn’t like to be held, petted or loved on, the antithesis of any dog whose life I’ve shared. But when I returned from Florida she would not leave me alone. That night, she tried to crawl in bed with me and nestle under my right arm. She is not a bed dog! I kept gently pushing her off the bed and begged Michelle to make her behave so I could sleep. That night every time I woke up, she’d be staring at me, her head resting on the bed. 2 a.m., 3:30, 4:35. The poor dog apparently didn’t sleep a wink. Her behavior was out of character and I couldn’t figure out what she wanted. I’d pet her and order her to bed, yet every time I woke up she was awake and staring. She began following me around the house, and sleeping on the floor next to me (even when I moved the dog bed to the other side of the room in an attempt to discourage her. ((Sometimes she stinks)). She has been there every night, often almost under the bed, irritating my own dog whose rightful place she was taking.

Two months later I was diagnosed with cancer in my right breast. A few days later it dawned that perhaps she detected something wrong.

This experience is not unique. I was telling my friends Michael and Sue about it over the weekend and they remembered when their late dog Roxie would nibble incessantly on Michael’s ear. They thought it was cute. Later doctors diagnosed Michael with a malignant melanoma and surgically removed it. The nibbling stopped.

So I googled “tumor-sniffing dogs” today and found the study. It’s pretty amazing, really. But not the kind of thing a drug company can patent, I suppose.

As Gretta sits now curled up at my feet, it occurs to me that the reasons why dog/God is man’s best friend could be more complex than we imagine.

Gretta sleeping while I write

7 Responses to “Tumor-sniffing dog?”

  • Jeff:

    All of those dogs are special and have a reason that they are there. Gretta is also a special rodent chasing critter and entertainment. I believe in a dog’s special ability. My boxer was alert to seismic activity. Her and I were in my backyard picking tomatos during the 1989 earthquake and I believe that we were both startled at the same time during the initial shaking. She would then perk up / ready alert a second or 2 before we would feel the aftershocks which went on for a couple of days.
    Love, Jeff

  • Fran:

    Wow — even more impressive than Clancy the waving dog! Go, Gretta!!

  • Susan Bowen:

    Tracie, I got shivers reading this. I’ve always said that our dog knows when we don’t feel good. Dean had gall bladder surgery unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago and Arlie hasn’t left his side. I’ll definitely pay more attention to Arlie and what he does around us.

    Praying for your healthy body!

  • Sue:

    My dad always said, “You know what dog spells backwards…”

  • Lynn:

    Tracie, Dogs are very intuitive….Humans just sometimes don’t understand what they are trying to say…Guess we should always pay more attention to our dog/god friends…Love you an I am looking forwad to seeing you Friday…

  • Abi's BF:

    Well I guess I better start paying more attention to Greta than I usually do……I just hope my girlfriend Abi won’t get jealous !!

  • brenda:

    Our cat gets like this when Derek is really sick. We couldn’t figure out her problem at first, but after the first hospital stay, we pay attention now!

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