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)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 9th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cancer, cancer sniffing, chocolate labs, collaboration, detect, detecting, detection, dog, dogs, Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation, mcbain, medicine, Monell Chemical Sciences Centers, ohlin, ovarian, ovarian cancer, penn, pets, project, research, science, sniff, sniffing, springer spaniel, study, thunder, university of pennsylvania, working dog center
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)
Posted by jwoestendiek April 23rd, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: assistance, benefit, black, brave hearts, canine, cares, dandy, detecting, dog, dogs, donations, education, faith, fundraiser, fundraising, island falls, lab, labrador retriever, maine, rehabilitation, seizures, service, services, spina bifida
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.”
Posted by jwoestendiek April 22nd, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 60 minutes, 911, animals, ax, belgian malinois, bomb, bombing, bombs, boston marathon, budget, chris corbin, cutbacks, detecting, detection, dog, dogs, explosive, fbi, green beret, homeland security, ied, lara logan, law enforcement, mike ritland, military, mines, navy seal, news, nose, pets, searches, security, smell, sniffing, special operations, sweeps, training
The canine nose got a vote of confidence Tuesday from the U.S. Supreme Court.
The unanimous decision stemmed from a case in Florida in which defense attorneys questioned a drug-sniffing dog’s credentials and reliability, and whether his alert was just cause to search a truck police had stopped.
The court ruled that, in the case of trained and certified dogs, it is — or as Justice Elena Kagan put it: “The sniff is up to snuff.”
Kagan said a dog’s “satisfactory performance” in a certification or training program provided sufficient reason for an officer to trust its alert, even though errors “may abound” when dogs get put to the test in the field.
The justices said that training records had established the reliability of Aldo, a German shepherd, in sniffing out contraband, and that Florida’s Supreme Court erred in suppressing evidence he found in Clayton Harris’ pickup truck — namely, methamphetamine ingredients.
The ruling, Reuters reports, gives law enforcement greater authority to use dogs to uncover illegal drugs.
“The question – similar to every inquiry into probable cause – is whether all the facts surrounding a dog’s alert, viewed through the lens of common sense, would make a reasonably prudent person think that a search would reveal contraband or evidence of a crime,” Kagan wrote for the court. “A sniff is up to snuff when it meets that test.”
The Harris case is one of two the court is considering about the validity of evidence obtained by drug-sniffing dogs. The second — which the high court has heard, but not decided — involves a police dog named Franky, who alerted while standing on a home’s doorstep, prompting a search that led to the discovery of marijuana growing inside.
In the case decided Tuesday, defense lawyers for Harris challenged the search by Aldo, a police dog in Liberty County, Florida. The officer handling Aldo — because Harris appeared nervous and declined to approve a search of his vehicle — allowed the dog a “free air sniff.”
Based in part on Aldo’s reaction, a full search was conducted.
Harris’ lawyers challenged the search, questioning Aldo’s certification and whether he was reliable in sniffing out drugs.
Florida’s Supreme Court concluded that the state had not sufficiently established how well-trained Aldo was, and it ruled the evidence of the methamphetamine ingredients should not have been admitted.
Kagan wrote that the officer reasonably believed there was contraband inside the truck based on Aldo’s training, and that defense attorneys failed to show that Aldo was unreliable.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 20th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aldo, animals, certification, detecting, dogs, drug, florida, harris, ingredients, justice elena kagan, K-9, k9, law enforcement, liberty county, methamphetamine, nose, pets, police, reliability, ruling, scent, search, sniffing, supreme court, training, vehicle
The wonder, promise and growing popularity of diabetes-detecting dogs were highlighted in a Wall Street Journal story this week that featured Abbie (that’s her on the left) and Gracie (the purposeful looking retriever on the right).
Abbie, diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 4, is 8-years-old now, and Gracie serves to alert her family when Abbie’s blood sugar levels rise to dangerous levels.
Gracie wakes up Abbie’s mother, Shana Eppler, about twice a night, when the 3-year-old British Labrador retriever rings a bell — a sign that Abbie’s levels have gotten too high.
Hypoglycemic-alert dogs, experts say, can outperform medical devices, such as glucose meters and continuous glucose monitors. In cases of low blood sugar, their performance is even more impressive, and more mysterious. They react to a scent researchers haven’t yet identified.
“Whatever is being secreted in that drop in blood sugar…we just don’t know what it is,” Dana Hardin, a pediatric endocrinologist who works for Eli Lilly & Co. in Indianapolis, told the Journal. Hardin is working to identify what the dogs are smelling in hopes it will facilitate training more dogs, and possibly lead to a detection device that performs as impressively as they do.
Dr. Hardin, who presented the first scientific research on the dogs at this year’s annual American Diabetes Association conference in Philadelphia, said she considers the dogs lifesavers.
But they are expensive ones. A fully trained diabetic-alert dog can cost $20,000 or more. While nonprofit training centers offer dogs free or at a nominal fee, their waiting lists are long. Interest in diabetic-alert dogs is rising, said Ed Peebles, president of the Las Vegas-based National Institute for Diabetic Alert Dogs. He gets about 20 applications for a dog every day.
Those families who get one — even if skeptical at first — are amazed by the results.
“I wasn’t about to trust my son’s life to something that is voodoo,” said Andrea Calamoneri, whose 15-year-old son Dylan has Type 1 diabetes. But seeing her son’s dog, Celeste, in action convinced her. “It gives you chills when you see it happen,” she said.
Abbie’s dog Gracie is always on duty, said Ms. Eppler, of Colorado Springs.
When Abbie’s blood sugar levels get too high, Gracie waves a raised paw. When they get too low, Gracie waves and then bows. “Rarely will Gracie let Abbie get below 90,” Ms. Eppler said.
“We joke that they are angels with fur.”
(Photo: Abbie and Gracie; by KC Owens / Wall Street Journal)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 12th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abbie, alert, angels with fur, animals, assistance dogs, blood sugar, dangerous, detecting, diabetes, diabetic alert dogs, diabetics, dogs, gracie, hypoglycemic, labrador, levels, pets, retriever, rising, service dogs, sinking, type 1, type 2
Chuck Shuck was star struck, but his dog Gabe took meeting Betty White in stride, as you might expect from a weapons sniffing dog who conducted 210 combat missions in Iraq.
Gabe, the American Humane Association’s “Hero Dog of the Year,” received his award last month in Los Angeles. (The ceremony will be shown on the Hallmark Channel at 8 p.m. this coming Thursday, Nov. 8.) Betty White was honored with two awards during the event.
“That was the highlight,” Gabe’s handler, Sgt. 1st Class Charles “Chuck” Shuck told The State. “Just to be in her presence was amazing.” Gabe, he said “was just his normal self, but I did get him to bark during the standing ovation.”
Another highlight was the grand prize — $10,000 that Shuck will use to support other service dogs and handlers now fighting in Afghanistan.
Now 10 years old, the Lab mix was rescued as a puppy from a Houston shelter the day before he was to be euthanized.
His luck continued in Iraq, where, in 2006, he and Shuck survived when a roadside bomb struck the vehicle they were riding in.
Shuck, 33, is now a Senior Drill Sergeant Leader at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. Gabe, who eventually became sensitive to the sound of explosions and guns, was retired. Since then, he’s gone from 67 pounds to 98 pounds.
About 3 million votes were cast in the hero dog competition.
Betty White received two awards from American Humane Association, the National Humanitarian Medal and the Legacy Award, for dedicating herself to protecting and improving the quality of life for animals.
You can find the American Humane Association’s news release about the ceremony — and information about the other finalists — here.
(Photo: At top, White and Gabe, courtesy of Charles Shuck; above left, Shuck and Gabe, file photo from The State)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 2nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: american humane association, animals, awards, betty white, ceremony, charles shuck, detecting, dog, dogs, explosives, fort jackson, gabe, hallmark, hero dogs, honors, iraq, military, pets, sniffing, television
The reunion took place at Lackland Air Force base in Texas last week, and the eight-year-old dog is now home with Logan Black.
Black, 34, launched a campaign on Facebook to persuade the Air Force to retire Diego and let him adopt him, KCTV in Kansas City reports. The retired soldier says Diego saved his life, several times, in Iraq.
“This feels fantastic,” Black said. “I’ve been waiting for those for a really long time.”
Black trained Diego and they served on nearly 40 missions in Iraq in 2006, searching for hidden weapons and homemade bombs.
Five years after they sent separate ways, Black said he still missed the dog. He began a search for Diego and learned that he was working at Lackland AFB, helping train other bomb-sniffing dogs.
“No doubt Diego would have found a home somewhere, but a home with me is different than with a totally new stranger,” Black said.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 14th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adopted, animals, bomb, bond, campaign, detecting, diego, dog, dogs, facebook, handler, home, humans, iraq, lackland, logan black, military, pets, reunion, reunited, search, sniffing, veteran
The National Fire Dog Monument, a memorial to accelerant-detecting dogs, is scheduled to arrive today in Washington.
Over the weekend, the sculpture stopped in Bloomington, about halfway through a 12-city, 2,000-mile tour that began in Denver, where it was created. The tour is sponsored by State Farm Insurance and the American Humane Association.
“From Ashes to Answers” is a sculpture of a firefighter looking down at his Labrador retriever. Its destination, and forever home, will be Fire Station No. 3 in Washington.
You can learn more about the monument, which acknowledges the work of accelerant-detecting dogs used in arson investigations, at the monument’s website.
The life-sized, 450-pound statue was conceived by Jerry Means, an arson investigator from Colorado, and sculpted by Denver-area firefighter Austin Weishel.
“The work that the dogs do really inspired me to create something where they can be recognized and so, four years ago, we started raising money,” Means told The Pantagraph. “We raised over $100,000 and are bringing recognition to these dogs who are so important in finding out who or what is responsible for fires.”
Weishel, a 22-year-old, self-taught sculptor, spent more than 1,500 hours completing the project.
“It’s something I enjoy doing and being a firefighter myself, I made sure I took the time and effort to get every detail exactly right,” he said.
Photo: Sculptor Austin Weishel of Colorado and Bruce Abbott, a member of the Bloomington Township Fire Department, next to the sculpture; by Lori Ann Cook-Neisler / The Pantagraph)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 28th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accelerant, animals, arson, austin weishel, bloomington, detecting, detection, dogs, fire, insurance, investigations, jerry means, memorial, national fire dog monument, pets, sculptor, sculpture, state farm, tour, washington
The dogs are members of “EcoDogs,” a three-year-old collaboration at Alabama’s Auburn University between the science departments and the school’s Canine Detection Research Institute, which trains dogs to detect explosives.
Environmentalists fear the non-native pythons are upsetting the ecological balance of South Florida. Their spread is generally attributed to irresponsible pet owners dumping their snakes and 1992′s Hurricane Andrew, which destroyed an adjacent exotic snake warehouse.
Now they’ve adapted to the Everglades, and park officials say there’s no way of eradicating them. Instead, with help from dogs, they hope to keep them from further spreading.
In a trial run, the dogs showed they can cover a search area 2.5 times faster than a person.
“People can only see that the snake is there if they can see the snake. The dogs can smell the snake even if it’s not visually apparent to us,” said Christina Romagosa, a biologist at Auburn.
Two black Labrador retrievers from EcoDogs, Ivy and Jake, were sent to the 2,358-square-mile park in 2010 and demonstrated their skills to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to a Reuters report that appeared in the Chicago Tribune.
Todd Steury, an Auburn conservation biologist and co-founder of the project, said training a new dog to detect a scent takes six to 10 weeks. Training for each additional scent, he said, takes “about 10 minutes. You can do it by accident if you’re not careful.”
In controlled experiments, the EcoDogs success rate in finding pythons at the park was 75-92 percent, Romagosa said. The dogs helped researchers trap 19 pythons, including a pregnant snake with 19 eggs, according to an EcoDog report.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 2nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alabama, animals, auburn university, biology, bomb, burmese pythons, canine detection, conservation, detecting, detection, dogs, ecodogs, ecology, environment, everglades, everglades national park, florida, pets, pythons, research institute, scent, snakes, sniffing, training
The U.S. Postal Service is issuing four new stamps that honor working dogs.
The “Dogs at Work” series celebrates the enduring partnership between working dogs and the people who count on them.
The four dogs depicted in the 65-cent stamps are a guide dog assisting a woman who is blind, a tracking dog on the trail of a scent, a therapy dog visiting an elderly woman in her home, and a search and rescue dog standing in a field.
Artist John M. Thompson created original paintings for the stamps, which were designed by art director Howard E. Paine.
The “Dogs At Work” stamps will come out in January, 2012, and are being issued at the two-ounce rate.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 29th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 65-cent, animals, artist, celebrate, detecting, dog, dogs, dogs at work, guide dog, honor, issuance, issue, john m. thompson, office, pets, post, postal, rate, rescue, search, series, sniffing, stamps, therapy dog, tracking, two ounce, working, working dogs