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
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
Sergeant Rex, a bomb-sniffing dog who finally returned from duty in Iraq earlier this year and was reunited with his former handler, died Saturday at the age of 11.
Rex was assigned to Cpl. Megan Leavey in 2006 when, on a patrol in Iraq, the dog alerted his handler of a nearby bomb. Both tried to run away, but it detonated, injuring them both.
Leavey left the Marine Corps in Dec. 2007, but Sergeant Rex continued to serve. She tried to adopt the dog, but was unable to for years because he remained on duty after recovering from his injuries.
This year, when Rex was retired due to facial paralysis, Leavey renewed her efforts, receiving support form U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and an online petition that received more than 20,000 signatures. In March, Leavey received permission to adopt him. They were reunited in April.
Leavey, who lives in New York, announced Rex’s death last week on her Facebook page:
“Unfortunately today at 10:56 a.m. Rex passed away. I was faced with the decision that no pet owner wants to hear, but I know I made the right choice. This is all very sudden and thankfully he did not suffer for long, this all came about late last night.
“I am so grateful for the last eight months I got to spend with my partner and my best friend. Rex got to swim in a pool and play with my other dogs. He got to roam the yard and bark at deer, play with as many toys as he wanted all day everyday, sleep in a cozy bed next to me every night, chase and eventually make friends with my two cats, enjoy and play in his first snowfall … and so much other great stuff that he would have never had the chance to do if he was never retired.
“He knew I was with him the whole time and I laid next to him and held him and spoke to him and he was at peace in the end. He is now my guardian angel … even though he already was. So thank you to everyone who supported me and made it possible for me to spend those precious 8 months with my best friend.
“He was one hell of a dog, one tough ass Marine, and one very special soul. He will no doubt be greatly missed and never forgotten.”
A book about Rex came out this year, entitled “Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog.” It was written by Mike Dowling, another one of Sergeant Rex’s handlers.
Rex searched more than 6,220 vehicles while stationed in Iraq, the Marine Corps says.
The publishers of the new book noted his passing in a Facebook post this week:
“Rest in peace Rex and thank you for your service and sacrifice. Once a Marine, Always a Marine … Semper Fi,” they wrote.
(Photo of Rex and Leavey from tribute posted at Findagrave.com)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 27th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: bomb, bombs, bond, book, death, died, dog, handler, handlers, ied, iraq, megan leavey, mike dowling, military, reunion, reunited, sergeant rex, sniffing, war
The west’s version of kudzu — a noxious weed known as Dyer’s woad — is being sniffed out by specially trained dogs as part of a program in Montana aimed at eradicating the fast-spreading, yellow blooming, Russian-born member of the mustard family.
First found in Montana in 1934, the weed, native to southeast Russia, can grow four inches in a week, produce as many as 10,000 seeds, send its roots five feet underground and climb waist high, leaving little room for native plants.
That’s where the dogs come in.
Deb Tirmenstein and her dogs — a Labrador named Wibaux and a border collie called Seamus — joined Montana’s Dyer’s woad eradication project in 2011.
Wibaux, initially trained to find cadavers, and Seamus, who was rescued from a Bozeman shelter, now scramble up and down mountains sniffing out pockets of the weed. When they find some, they get a treat, and the weed gets sprayed with herbicides.
The project grew out of research conducted at Montana State University, acording to an article by the Montana State University News Service, published in the Helena Independent Record.
Montana Dyer’s Woad Cooperative Project started in 1984, and it has seen the weed’s presence drop from 17 counties down to seven – Beaverhead, Silver Bow, Carbon, Flathead, Gallatin, Missoula and Park.
The dogs are just the most recent tool in the battle.
Kim Goodwin, a research associate in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences in MSU’s College of Agriculture, started investigating the possibility of using dogs to detect noxious weeds when she was a master’s degree student at MSU.
Goodwin’s research showed that dogs and people complement each other when looking for noxious weeds. People can spot large flowering patches of the plants ; dogs can detect single plants, even before they start sprouting.
“Through our research, we found they are able to detect twice as many small plants as the surveyors do,” Goodwin said.
This year on Mount Sentinel in Missoula the dogs detected about 40 locations that humans missed, said Goodwin, whose original research used German shepherds and focused on knapweed.
Goodwin said she got the idea for using dogs to detect noxious weeds after reading about the ”Beagle Brigade,” which inspects luggage and boxes for the USDA at U.S. airports and ports of entry.
Trainers introduced Wibaux to Dyer’s woad by hiding the weed inside a box with holes in the lid and placing the box next to boxes containing other weeds.
When Wibaux realized she would receive a treat or get to retrieve a ball every time she detected Dyer’s woad, she started honing in on it.
(Photos of Wibaux and Seamus by Sepp Jannotta / MSU)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 15th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, border collie, control, Deb Tirmenstein, detection, dogs, dyers woad, eradication, idaho, kim goodwin, labrador, montana, montana state university, nature, noxious, pets, program, research, retriever, science, seamus, sniff, sniffing, weed, weeds, west, wibaux, woad
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
But they didn’t fool Mitzy.
The sniffer dog, one of many working for the British Border Force, located the three stowaways inside the truck at the Dunkirk port in northern France, BBC reported.
The coffins were aboard a Bulgarian-registered vehicle and were bound for a funeral home in west London.
The stowaways were handed over to French border police.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 1st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, British Border Force, coffins, dog, dogs, europe, illegal, immigrants, k9, Mitzy, pets, smuggling, sniffer, sniffing, truck, uk
As the only certified officer in the New Mexico town, it appears, on paper anyway, that Nikka’s in charge.
Police Chief Ernest “Chris” Armijo stepped down Wednesday after news stories reported that he wasn’t allowed to carry a gun because of his criminal background.
Vaughn’s only other human officer isn’t certified as a result of pleading guilty to charges of assault and battery last year, according to the Associated Press.
Non-certified officers aren’t allowed to make arrests or carry firearms.
That leaves law enforcement in the small eastern New Mexico town up to Nikka, a drug-sniffing dog who apparently lives with the former chief.
State officials said Chief Armijo couldn’t carry a gun because he owes tens of thousands of dollars in child support payments in Texas. He also faces felony charges after being accused of selling a town-owned rifle and keeping the cash.
Town attorney Dave Romero says Armijo is trying to clear up the latest case and hasn’t ruled out returning to the position.
Romero said not having an officer qualified to carry a gun didn’t put the small town at risk, and added that town officials are looking at hiring another officer. He said it’s unclear whether the town will keep the police dog, which had been in Armijo’s care.
Letting Nikka serve as chief — though we think it’s a good idea — apparently hasn’t been discussed.
Guadalupe County Sheriff Michael Lucero said his department has helped patrol Vaughn, a town of about 450 people located 104 miles east of Albuquerque. But he said that has put a strain on his short-staffed department.
When approached by an Associated Press reporter, Armijo said he had no comment, and he declined to allow Nikka to be photographed.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 27th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, certified, chief, child support, department, dog, dogs, drug, drug-sniffing, Ernest Armijo, firearms, K-9, k9, law enforcement, new mexico, nikka, officers, one, pets, police, police dog, remaining, resignation, sniffing, vaughn, weapons
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 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