I may be biased as I have a German Shepherd snoozing next to my slippered feet right now, but dogs are fantastic. Most of us know of therapy dogs or service dogs that provide assistance to visually or physically impaired people. Dogs also assist those with psychiatric illnesses and are used to help Alzheimer’s patients remember to take their medicine.
At the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University in Tallahassee, dogs have been trained to detect the odor of skin melanomas and prostate cancer. In more recent news, dogs are now being used to sniff out lung and ovarian cancer cells with an accuracy of 99% and in microscopic quantities.
Other dogs, known as seizure response dogs, can recognize when glucose levels rise or fall dramatically before seizures, convulsions, or diabetic comas and react to prevent the person from harm. These service dogs are trained to run in circles if their owner’s blood pressure drops so as to warn the owner before something worse happens.
Dogs are also readily used in American military and serve vital roles to the army’s missions and soldiers. It’s estimated that a single war dog saves about 150 soldiers’ lives during its service. Yet many of these highly trained, selfless animals get left behind or euthanized when it’s time for the troops to pack up and head home; by classification, equipment may be left behind at any time, while manpower cannot. Although many soldiers consider their K-9 friends as partners rather than another broken tank, retired dogs are not entitled to transportation back home.
These K-9 military personal sometimes get adopted into homes in the US, but the costs pile up. It costs the adopter about $2,000 to ship the dog overseas, loads of medical bills from the injuries the dog incurred from the war, and long-term treatment bills for arthritis and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Reclassifying these four-legged, or sometimes three- or two-legged friends after war, would get them the care that they need.
Whether bomb-sniffing K-9 soldiers or cancer-discovering dog-scientists, dogs are amazing creatures.
This is my dog. He’s easily just as cool.