HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA
Even for a pet who loves to cuddle, Teddy Bear seemed too attentive for Georgina Bramwell. She couldn’t figure it out. Her one-year-old Pomeranian had acted strangely for about a month. When she would sit or lay down with Teddy Bear in her Halifax-area home, he would sniff, paw away at, and jump on her right side.
Georgina and her husband, Robert, tried to put the pieces together but couldn’t. They would push Teddy Bear away, thinking he was being playful in an odd canine sort of way. “He was driving me right up the wall,” said Georgina, recalling the events of fall 2004. “He wouldn’t leave me alone. I never paid attention. I just thought it was a habit he had.”
Then one night, after she had showered, Georgina was on the bed with her dog. He started to bury his head in her right side again, once again her right side. Teddy Bear became increasingly agitated, his eyes popping out like saucers. He looked almost like he might be about to nip her.
But this time, his contact with her right breast caused some pain. Georgina immediately began to examine the area. She felt a lump, a hard consistency in her breast. The next day, she and Robert drove to her doctor’s office in Dartmouth. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and, very shortly afterwards, she was in the hospital for surgery.
Today, Georgina is doing fine. She is convinced her dog’s persistence was the key to her discovering the lump that led to her subsequent surgery. Georgina had been in the habit of breast self-examination but her family had no real history of breast cancer. Teddy Bear has never repeated his display of insistent digging and sniffing.
No one will ever know if Teddy Bear had ‘sniffed out’ the tumour. But there has been extensive research, mainly in the United States and in England, that shows dogs may be detecting alkanes (simple hydrocarbon compounds) and benzene derivatives exuded by tumours.
“The dog knew something was wrong,” said Robert. “It just took us a while to figure it out. Adds Georgina: “It doesn’t matter whether there’s scientific proof. Teddy Bear helped save my life — of that, I’m certain.”