According to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, approximately 3.3 million dogs enter U.S. animal shelters every year. Of those, 1.6 million are adopted each year but 670,000 are still euthanized every year. Even though this number has dropped in the last few years, it is still significant.

Yet, dogs have potentials that humans don’t have and could possibly save humans’ lives, thanks to their incredible sense of smell (they have 300 million olfactory receptors vs. our 5 million and can detect smells 100 million times less concentrated than humans can). So, what if, instead of killing those shelter dogs, we could save them, love them and train them for cancer detection?

Here is the story of two dogs, one being a German Shepherd, returned twice to a shelter by his owner and probably destined to be euthanized. The second one being a yellow Lab adopted from a breeder. Two very different dogs with very different backgrounds and upbringings united as best friends, training together to detect cancer in humans with the ultimate goal of helping humans discover which specific aromatic volatile compounds are present in cancer patients. One of these remarkable dogs gave a man’s life new meaning, a hospital a new image and mankind new hope. I will describe how my husband and I met those two dogs and interviewed their current owners.

Originally Published on Psychology Today

© Dr. Chris Gilbert, MD, PhD

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