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Help At Home - When You Least Expect It

Aug 04, 2010 | By Gillian FitzGerald

Pets can be an unexpected source of help - from helping to reading to saving lives. An educating revelation about our furry friends.

Golden Retriever therapy dogA while back, we had an article on how dogs help kids learn to read. It's fast-growing trend, with many 'reading-to-dogs' programs popping up at libraries throughout North America. Dogs' calm, accepting natures lessen children's fears, building their confidence. Not to mention their increased motivation from the sheer novelty factor of entertaining a furry friend!

Not that this ability is limited to dogs alone, horse and other animals have long be used as therapy or calming treatments for autistic or traumatized children, even prison inmates. So it was with particular interest that I read an article about a small terrier who saved his owner's life by chewing off his toe.
Yes. You read right. Chewed off his toe. Which quite frankly is quite an appalling concept until you dig further and understand why.

Like most animals, dogs have a far greater sensitivity than any human to the environment around them. They hear a wider frequency of sounds, smell greater range of scents and are sensitive to temperature or mood fluctuations. So it is not a far reach to imagine that they can literally smell or sense when something is not right, health-wise, with their owners. And in fact, they do.

The interest of this particular news article was less in the rather macabre content, but in the related comments left by readers, who shared a myriad of personal stories of how their pets insistently pointed out disease and other ailments, sometimes even curing them or even saving their lives.
Some stories shared were:


"... I suffer from insulin-dependent diabetes. I was running late for a meeting and was trying to get out the door, but Macie [a feral rescue kitten] set up such a holler and parked herself between me and the door. She was inconsolable. I checked her food and water to no avail. In frustration, I put my hand to my head which was wet with sweat - classic sign of too much insulin. As soon as I got my kit out, she shut up, twitched her tail and walked away. Sometimes my sugar can just plummet without my realizing it. It was already low enough that it would have been too dangerous to be behind the wheel. She has awakened my husband twice since in the night alerting him to me slipping into a coma ..." 

Dog and loving owner

"... My dogs have let me know too many times to count that my husband [insulin-dependent diabetes] was in trouble because of low blood sugars. They have woken me at night. And if I don't come when they bark and want me to follow them, they get behind me to nudge me on ..."



"... I had a black Lab named "Sam", who liked to spend most of the day on my bed. One day he started butting me on the left side of my stomach. This went on for 5-6 weeks. On a Sunday night, I wasn't feeling good but thought it was from dinner. Sam kept prodding me all night and waking me up. Finally at 4am, I got up and was in pain as soon as I stood up. I woke my wife (with the dog jumping and still sticking his nose in my left side) and she suggested the ER to be safe. They did X-rays, CAT scans and Doppler and saw a TUMOUR the size of a peach in my left kidney. I had surgery within 4 hours. It was cancer. Thanks to Sam, who past away 1 year later, I probally wouldn't be writing this ..."

"... My dog, Mr. Beasley, kept licking and biting at a flat mole on my thigh. After licking it, his chin would be filled with froth. I asked my doctor to look at the mole and told him what Mr. Beasley was doing. I was told the mole met none of the criteria for skin cancer, but I asked him to remove it anyway. I had heard of dogs smelling cancer on their owners' skin. I had the mole tested and it turned out to be malignant melanoma stage II ..."


Dog snuggling into owner

"... A few months ago my little terrier kept bumping up against my right side. She just wouldn't leave me alone. I had some pain, nothing much. She drove me nuts, constantly pawing and jumping up at my right side. When the pain increased a bit, I decided to go to the doctor which I never do. Turns out my appendix had ruptured and for some reason, I didn't feel the agonising pain most do. I nearly died on the operating table from the spread infection. I wouldn't have sought help so soon if it wasn't for my dog. As soon as I came home from the hospital, she was normal and relaxed with me again ..."

And lastly,

"... Just before our close friend had a heart attack last Sunday morning, his black lab, Buddy, nudged and pushed on him, waking him up about 4:30 am. When he awoke, he was experiencing pain radiating down both of his arms. He wound up having the heart attack, fortunately in the ER, 3 hours later. They were able to inject drugs to lighten the blow. YOU GO BUDDY! ..."

Makes you look upon animals with newfound respect.
So next time, a furry member of the family starts continously nudging or harrassing you, perhaps they are not just looking for love or another walk. Perhaps they are simply looking out for you. 

Tags : dogs, help, health, disease, sensory perception,

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