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Tag: detecting

Together again: Dog and Marine reunited


Marine Sgt. Ross Gundlach, while serving in Afghanistan, made a promise to Casey, the explosive-detecting yellow Lab who worked alongside him.

“I promised her if we made it out of alive, I’d do whatever it took to find her,” Gundlach said.

Gundlach, after completing his military service and enrolling at the University of Wisconsin, managed to find out that Casey had finished her military service and been sent to work for the state of the Iowa, detecting explosives.

Knowing it was probably just the first round of a long bureaucratic battle, Gundlach wrote to State Fire Marshal Director Ray Reynolds, explaining the connection he felt with the four-year-old dog who’d been both lifesaver and companion. Gundlach wears a tattoo on his right forearm depicting Casey with angel wings and a halo.

Governments being governments, whether they’re state or federal, you’d expect Gundlach’s plea to get bounced around, filed away or heartlessly overlooked.

But, as reported by the Associated Press, things happened quickly.

“He’s been putting a case together for the last two months, sending me pictures,” Reynolds said. “ … It just tugged on your heart.”

Reynolds got in touch with the Iowa Elk’s Association, and it agreed to donate $8,500 to buy another dog for the fire marshal’s office.

Then, he got in touch with Gundlach, telling him that he needed to come to the state Capitol in Des Moines on Friday to plead his case before a “bureaucratic oversight committee.”

Gundlach, 25, showed up with his parents.

Reynolds told Gundlach the meeting had been delayed, but invited he and his parents to attend an Armed Services Day celebration in the rotunda.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers, military personnel and civilians were already there, and knew — unlike Gundlach — what was about to happen.

That’s when Casey appeared.

A ceremony was held in which Gov. Terry Branstad officially retired Casey from active duty, thanking her for “a job well done.”

Casey was given to Gundlach, who put his head in his hands and cried.

“It was a total surprise,” he said. “I owe her. I’ll just try to give her the best life I can.” During the 150 missions they performed together, Gundlach said Casey never missed an explosive. He credits her for making it back home safely. “I wouldn’t be here … any kids I ever had wouldn’t exist if Casey hadn’t been here,” he said.

His father, Glen Gundlach, seemed just as surprised.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “The state of Iowa, I love ‘em.”

(Photos: Charlie Neibergall / AP)

Puppies in training to detect ovarian cancer

Two chocolate Labs and a springer spaniel are being trained to sniff out ovarian cancer at the University of Pennsylvania.

In a collaboration between Penn and the Monell Chemical Sciences Centers, Ohlin and McBain (above) and Thunder (left) will use their noses to detect the disease in humans.

Ovarian cancer kills more than 14,000 women every year and is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the nation.

The collaboration, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, takes aim at the silent killer with a combination of chemistry, nanotechnology — and dogs.

Canines have been detecting lung and breast cancer for years. With an $80,000 grant from the Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation, the new project will assess their effectiveness in sniffing out ovarian cancer, and continue an investigation that has been underway in Sweden.

The Swedish professor behind that project, who was using his own dogs for the study, is retiring. But he’s lending his expertise to those involved in the Penn project.

“He’s been advising us along the way to we don’t repeat the same mistakes he made along the way,” said Dr. Cynthia Otto, director of the Working Dog Center and Associate Professor of Critical Care at Penn Vet.

While the disease is often difficult to diagnose, ovarian cancer’s victims have a survival rate of 90 percent. No effective screening protocol yet exists to detect cases in the early stages.

In the new program, scientists from Penn Medicine’s Division of Gynecologic Oncology will take tissue and blood samples from both healthy and ovarian cancer patients. The samples will be analyzed by chemists, scientists, computers and the puppies at the Working Dog Center, who will be exposed to healthy samples and cancer samples in vented containers they can’t access, but can smell.

The dogs began their training at 8-weeks of age.

“They’re all fabulous and they are very strong in olfaction,” Otto said.

(Photos: Philadelphia Inqurer)

A matter of Faith: Girl, 5, gets service dog


A family in northern Maine says it is “overwhelmed” by the generosity they saw from friends and strangers who donated enough money for them to get a service dog for their 5-year-old daughter, Faith.

Faith has spina bifida and experiences seizures. The new dog — a black Lab named Dandy — has been trained to detect when they might be coming.

Bruce and Beverly McNally, of Island Falls, took Faith in as a foster child, then as their adopted daughter. They quickly realized they needed help monitoring her for the seizures, which could be deadly if not addressed.

“The family became very worried, which is why they wanted to get the dog,” Michele King, Faith’s aunt, told the Bangor Daily News.

King is also the chief administrative officer for Brave Hearts, a nonprofit Christian home for young men in Island Falls, and that organization sponsored a fundraiser last month to try and raise the $2,500 that was needed.

King said that donations came from the more than 100 people who attended a benefit supper, and from people as far away as North Carolina.

“We just couldn’t believe it,” Beverly McNally said. “We eventually had enough money and we had to gently turn people away. We had to tell them that we had enough for the dog, but that we wanted them to donate the money to a charity of their own choosing.”

Dandy came from CARES — Canine Assistance Rehabilitation Education and Services — a nonprofit organization in Concordia, Kansas, that trains and matches assistance dogs with owners.

“Dandy has just been wonderful for Faith,” McNally said on Friday. “She picks up on a chemical change in the body when a seizure occurs. One day when we got back, Faith was very lethargic. She was in the chair with me and needed to be snuggled a lot more. And the dog got up in the chair and started whining. And I didn’t realize what was going on. And 45 minutes later, Faith had a seizure. Then I realized what the dog was trying to tell me.”

(Photo: Michele King)

“60 Minutes” on bomb-sniffing dogs

60 Minutes looked at bomb-sniffing dogs in a report that, especially given last night’s other featured stories — on the Marathon bombing and the 9/11 Memorial — brought home not just how many lives they’ve saved in the military overseas, but how many more they might save here.

Reporter Lara Logan focused on the dogs of war, and the trainers that describe their canines as nearly infallible when it comes to detecting bombs.

But they’re not so infallible when explosive devices are planted after the dogs have made their sweeps, as apparently was the case at the Boston Marathon.

“Would an average police dog have found these bombs at the Boston Marathon …?” she asked trainer Mike Ritland.

“…Based on what I do know, yes,” Ritland said. “If dogs went through the areas where they were placed– you know, your average, certified police bomb dog should have found them. My thoughts are if these guys (the suspects) are paying close attention to these dogs, they’re waiting. And when the dogs leave, they bring it in, they hand– they infiltrate, essentially, they drop it right where it’s busy, and very soon after, it detonates.”

As the “60 Minutes” piece pointed out, since 9/11 dogs have been used more than ever because nothing is more effective in finding hidden bombs. Dogs in the employ of the military and FBI have sniffed out bombs, captured enemies, and one assisted Navy SEAL Team 6 when it took down Osama bin Laden. Much more of what they do, given the often secretive nature of their work, never becomes known.

“The best of them serve with U.S. Special Operations and they’re in a league of their own,” Logan noted. “It’s nearly impossible to get anyone to talk about them publicly because much of what they do is classified, but we were able to talk to the people who train them for this story. We took the opportunity to ask about what might have happened in Boston while getting a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of America’s most elite dogs.”

(One member of the “60 Minutes” team — in a segment not shown on the air but featured on 60minutesovertime.com – even volunteered to be chased down by a military dog in training in Texas. Producer Reuben Heyman-Kantor, in the video above, tried to outrun the dog, but was brought down quickly.)

In her interview with former Navy SEAL Ritland, who now finds and trains dogs for Special Operations and top tier units in the FBI, Logan asked, ”What can these dogs do on the streets of America?”

“The very same thing that they do for our boys overseas in that they detect explosives– they are a fantastic deterrent– they use their nose to find, you know, people as well,” Ritland said.

“Everybody knows that dogs can smell better than humans but what they don’t realize is that if you and I walk into the kitchen and there’s a pot of beef stew on the counter, you and I smell beef stew. A dog smells potatoes, carrots, beef, onion, celery, gravy, flour. They smell each and every individual component of everything that’s in that beef stew. And they can separate everyone one of those. You can’t hide anything from them. It won’t work because you can’t fool a dog’s nose.”

Ritland now trains dogs on his 20-acre ranch in rural Cooper, Texas, runs the Warrior Dog Foundation for retired war dogs, and is the author of “Trident K9 Warriors: My Tale From the Training Ground to the Battlefield with Elite Navy SEAL Canines.”

Ritland says its important — amid these days of budget cuts — to remember what lifesavers the dogs can be, both in wars and at home.

In Afghanistan, according to the report, 42 dogs have been killed in action. They’ve become so effective that the enemy is singling them out. A Taliban commander told “60 Minutes” that on his last operation they were ordered to open fire on the American dogs first, and deal with the soldiers next.

Logan visited what she said was one of only three breeders in the U.S. who produce dogs — almost always the Belgian Malinois — for top tier military units.

She also interviewed Green Beret Chris Corbin who, along with his dog Ax, almost died on their final mission in Afghanistan.

Corbin said he missed a signal from the dog while searching for mines. Ax was alerting to Corbin’s foot, but Corbin realized it too late. He lost both his lower legs. Ax was not wounded. Both returned to duty.

Ax was at Corbin’s side during the interview, and rarely took his eyes off his former partner as he described their first reunion after the blast.

“I just said something simple. ‘Hey, where’s my boy at?’ and he stopped. He froze. He looked around. And he went into a panic until he found me and he jumped on my legs. Painful. Just– I was just happy to see him. I didn’t care how much it hurt.”

Police department bids farewell to Cheko

Police in Thomasville, North Carolina, paid their tribute to one of their canine partners Thursday – Cheko, a 9-year-old drug-sniffing dog who died after being poisoned.

About 150 people gathered for a memorial service at the Thomasville Funeral Home.

Police Chief Jeffrey Insley said before the service that an autopsy determined that Cheko — a drug-detecting dog who also was trained as a tracker — had been poisoned, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. He was one of four dogs in the K-9 unit.

Cheko died in March, just a week before he was scheduled to retire, at the Randolph County home of his handler, Thomasville Police Sgt. John Elgin. Elgin found Cheko dead inside his kennel, about two days after the dog started acting sluggish.

The Randolph County Sheriff’s Department is investigating how the dog ingested the poison. Elgin said additional tests will be conducted to determine what chemicals or poisons killed Cheko.

“It could have been an act of retaliation from a past arrest, but we are not going to point any fingers until we complete our investigation,” he said.

“Any new dog who takes Cheko’s place will have big paws to fill,” Insley said at the service.

Among those paying tribute to Cheko was  Thomasville Mayor Joe Bennett told the audience, Cheko had gone to heaven. “I doubt there are drugs there, but he is looking for something and having fun.”

Kitty, the dog that keeps on pulling

David Love was bedridden — going through a particularly ugly spell in his bout with liver cancer — when he agreed to babysit a friend’s dog, a pit bull mix named Kitty.

The first thing Kitty did was jump up on his bed and lick his face.

That was a year ago, and Kitty, Love says, has been helping him ever since – lifting his spirits, detecting his seizures and pulling his wheelchair, all without any formal training.

I spotted Love and Kitty on my way through Brookings, Oregon — the last coastal town one who is southbound goes through before hitting California.

We passed him as she pulled his wheelchair across the Chetco River bridge, saw them again cruising down the sidewalk after we stopped for gas, and finally cornered him when Kitty came to a halt in front of a shopping center on the south side of town.

Love had gone there to pick up some medicine and check in on his buddy, a homeless man named Buddy.

He was happy to talk, especially about his dog.

“She’s my motor,” he said.

Though Kitty was initially just visiting, once her owner saw how taken the two were with each other, she suggested he keep her.

Love’s troubles — and he admits he has seen a few — began when he broke his leg while playing college football.

Complications set in — exacerbated, he says, by too many doctors and too much alcohol, and eventually Love lost the leg.

Things went downhill from there, but eventually Love took what he knew about being down, being drunk and being addicted and put it to good use, setting up missions to help those so inflicted.

He ran an outreach in Oklahoma, then moved back to Oregon and set up another. Not long after that, he was diagnosed with liver cancer, which kept him bedridden for long spells. The outreach lost its building, but he now runs it out of the motel room he lives in.

Among those he tries to check on daily is Buddy, a homeless man, also in a wheelchair, who sits at a corner with a sign that says, “Simple Work. Anything Helps. Hungary Broke.”

Buddy’s corner is about two and a half miles from where Love lives, but Kitty regularly pulls him the entire way.

“If I don’t hear from Buddy, I get panicky,” Love said, adding that he needed to visit a nearby drug store for medicine anyway.

Love also suffers from seizures, and he says Kitty seems to have developed the ability to warn him if one is coming.

“She seems to know I’m going to have a seizure before I do,” he said. She will put her head on his legs and look at him, and sometimes “she blocks me from going anywhere and won’t let me leave the house.” Love says he has woken up from seizures only to see the dog standing over him.

Kitty isn’t the first dog — or the first pit bull — I’ve heard of who, with no formal training, assumed the role of therapy and assistance dog. (You can read about another in “Dog, Inc.” my soon-to-be-released book advertised at the top of this page.)

Sometimes, dogs– even those not trained for such tasks – just seem to know what to do, how to help.

For Kitty, one of those tasks is pulling, and she goes at with gusto and determination, straining up hills, slowing down at street corners, coming to a dead halt when she sees someone she’s not sure she trusts.

Kitty is 2-1/2 years old, and has had two litters of pups since moving in with Love. In her spare time, such as when Love stops to talk to someone, she likes to roll on her back in the dirt.

During the times he has been bedridden, Love says, Kitty has been at his side, disproving all he’d ever heard about pit bulls.

“I’ve always been told they were bad dogs,” he said. “But it’s all in how you teach them. She’s a very gentle dog and she’s great with kids. She don’t puddle on the floor or anything.”

I walked with them to the drug store. Love handed me the leash and we agreed to meet back up down at the corner where Buddy was sitting.

But when I tried to get her to come with me, Kitty wouldn’t budge, taking a seat and staring at the store. Only after much encouragement did she agree to come, and even then, every five steps or so, she’d stop, sit and stare at the store.

Once we worked our way back to the corner, she took a seat, her eyes never leaving the storefront.

I’d say Love found quite a dog in Kitty, a pit bull that assumed the roles she saw her owner needed — serving not as a fighter, but as nurse, cheerleader, motor and friend.

Dogs can detect prostate cancer, study says

A French study says dogs can sniff out signs of prostate cancer in human urine — a finding that could lead to better cancing-sensing technology, according to its lead author.

While some scientists have questioned similar reports of dogs with such diagnostic powers in recent years, French researcher Jean-Nicolas Cornu, who works at Hospital Tenon in Paris, said, “The dogs are certainly recognizing the odor of a molecule that is produced by cancer cells.”

Researchers don’t know what that molecule is,  according to U.S. News & World Report, but the study’s findings could prove useful in the detection of cancer, which often goes undetected until it is too late to treat.

Urine tests can turn up signs of prostate cancer, Cornu said, but miss some cases.

In the study, two researchers spent a year training a Belgian Malinois, a breed already used to detect drugs and bombs.

The dog was trained to differentiate between urine samples from men with prostate cancer and men without. Ultimately, researchers placed groups of five urine samples in front of the dog to see if it could identify the sole sample from a man with prostate cancer. The dog correctly classified 63 out of 66 specimens.

If the findings hold up in other studies, they’ll be “pretty impressive,” said urologist Dr. Anthony Y. Smith, who was to moderate a discussion on the findings Tuesday at the American Urological Association annual meeting in San Francisco.

Hell no, he won’t go: War dog has had enough

gunnerGunner, though he hasn’t seen much of it, is — from all appearances — tired of war.

Out of the 58 bomb-sniffing dogs the Marines have in Afghanistan, only one—a yellow Lab named Gunner— is suffering from such severe canine post-traumatic stress disorder that he’s having to sit things out, remaining behind at his base camp to quiver in his kennel, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Marines call him “combat-ineffective” and “not mission-capable.” He’s refusing to go into battle and perform the war-time deeds he was trained to do, which makes him a liability, in the eyes of the Marines.

Like their human comrades, some war dogs can handle combat, and some can’t, according to the Journal piece (which includes a slideshow of Gunner in action, or, more accurately, in inaction).

Gunner graduated from bomb-dog school in Virginia, but the Marines say he was skittish even before he arrived in the combat zone in October and was posted to a front-line battalion. He reacted so nervously to gunfire that he never even got a chance to go on a real patrol.

He’s not the first dog to decline to perform his duties.  Another Lab refused to associate with the Marines after seeing a serviceman shoot a feral Afghan dog. It took weeks of retraining, hours of playing with a reindeer squeaky toy and a piles of praise before Zoom was willing to go back to work.

Capt. Michael Bellin, an Army veterinarian working with the Marines, says he’s seen canine post-traumatic stress disorder cases before. “I think it’s possible, depending on what they went through.”

Gunner was sent to the main kennel at Camp Leatherneck, where bomb dogs recuperate from illness or injury. For weeks after he arrived, Gunner refused to leave the kennel compound. Even now almost any sound sends him into a panic. If a shipping container door slams somewhere nearby, Gunner hunches down and bolts for an open cage door. If an artillery round goes off in the distance, he races into the tent of kennel manager, Cpl. Chad McCoy.

The corporal doubts Gunner will ever be fit for combat; instead he’s trying to get him to get over his fears enough to make him adoptable back home.

(Photo: Wall Streee Journal, Bryan Denton)

Philadelphia airport dogs not up to snuff

All three bomb-sniffing dogs handled by the Transportation Security Administration at Philadelphia International Airport have lost their certification after having failed their last two tests.

And Fox News reports the problems may extend beyond that: Sources say about a dozen of the 700 TSA dogs at 85 airports have failed the tests as well.

A TSA spokesman said the three dogs in Philadelphia — after failing standard tests in November and December — are continuing intensive training to regain their certification, and are continuing to work at the airport as a “visual deterrent.” 

The dogs, trained in at Lackland Air Force base in Texas, completed the 10-week course all TSA dogs must successfully pass.

Ten other city police dogs assigned to Philadelphia’s airport passed the tests.

The TSA spokesman said the agency is working quickly to recertify the bomb sniffing dogs and assured the traveling public that security would not suffer.

You can teach a mold dog new tricks

Oreo-Laughing-715332Among all the things dogs’ noses are sniffing out to make the world a better and safer place — drugs, explosives, missing children, fleeing felons, diseases, bedbugs, pirated cds, sewage leaks, cell phones in prisons — here’s one I hadn’t heard of:

Mold.

A Princeton, New Jersey, company is using canines to detect potentially lethal mold in homes, offices and classrooms.

1-800-GOT-MOLD?  calls itself America’s leading mold inspection company, and claims to be the nation’s first franchise operation to recruit man’s best friend to pinpoint the location of hidden mold in buildings, preventing potential health dangers, which include fatigue, headaches, respiratory problems, and even cancer.

Mold Dogs (and the term has been trademarked) can locate the source of hidden mold growth, even in its early stages.

The company’s founder, Jason Earle, realized that  traditional mold-detection involved a lot of guesswork. While air sampling is commonly used to detect household molds, it often fails to locate the precise source of the problem.

 Mold Dogs save time and money and allow the company to avoid unnecessary invasive procedures, according to Earle, who suffered from mold-related health complications as a child.

Earle’s dog Oreo is the first mold detection dog in the northeast and one of the first nationwide, he says.

(Photo: Oreo, courtesy of 1-800-GOT-MOLD? )