Who Nose

Assistance Dogs

There is nothing nicer than a lovely hot bath or an invigorating shower. These days we are quite spoiled by all the bath time pampering products available to us for the body beautiful. I have often wondered what on earth my poor dogs noses make of me as I waft passed them freshly scrubbed and scented.

A friend of mine Claire Guest is currently working on a fascinating new pilot scheme on training dogs to sniff out cancers. Claire having worked for twenty years for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, used to be Operations Director and has now given up her HDDP job to work on this new project. Her most successful dog to date is Tangle a liver coloured cocker bred by me and on a recent visit Claire and I spent quite a few hours chatting about dogs scenting abilities. Dogs have been used for many years to track people, detect drugs and explosives. Cancer cells are known to produce chemical compounds that differ from those made by normal cells.

The gundog breeds because of their known scenting ability and eagerness to learn are favoured for this highly specialised work. This ground breaking study had its scientific results first published in the British Medical Journal in Sept 2004 receiving universal acclaim. As you can imagine there has since been considerable press and TV coverage. Listening to Claire enthusiastically explaining the training and success of this pilot scheme I had to pull her up short I could hardly envisage a coven of cockers aided and abetted by some retrievers cavorting about the hospital beds!!! How was this idea to work in practice Claire chuckled at my imaginary scenario and explained that the dogs scenting ability would lead scientists onto developing an electronic nose rather like a breathalyser which would enable cancers to be detected in their very early stages. I had to reflect on this for a moment as I had, like many other people several friends currently in the battle against this disease.

During Claire's stay I noticed that her critical eye was paying quite a lot of attention to my Cocker Spaniels (Yes, I know they are all beautiful!) Apparently Claire has a problem in that Tangle is getting older and will shortly be needing an apprentice. She also needs more dogs for entry into the Bio-detection training scheme. Taking a particular shine to my current Field Trial dog Freddie she has asked to kept informed of any future pups I may have from him. Only able to spare a few days out of a very busy work schedule Claire was off back to London to commence filming for a documentary to be screened later on in the year for the Discovery Channel.

Fascinating work which deserves as much of our support as we can give.