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I could have sworn my dog, Max, quietly napping on my left side, perked up when Diane Sawyer introduced the story about the Navy SEAL dogs on the evening news. Max’s brother, Baylor, with eyes half closed, was perched like a cat on the arm of the couch. But when Diane mentioned those heroic dogs, he snapped to attention, instantly turning his head in the direction of the television.
At least I thought he did.
My miniature Schnauzers are about as close to being Navy SEAL dogs as I am to being a Navy SEAL. But we three enjoyed the story anyway.
Those Navy SEAL dogs are really something. When the 79 valiant Navy SEALS made their surprise visit to the Bin Laden residence, they were accompanied by one of their highly trained canine comrades. These dogs are capable of sniffing out explosives, finding enemies and when necessary, chasing them down. They are highly outfitted too. The dogs wear protective body armor, and some are trained to communicate with their handler up to 1,000 yards away by means of a speaker attached to a vest. The vests are equipped with infrared and night vision cameras that allow the handlers to see what the dog sees. The canine commandos are capable of parachuting, rappelling, and swimming. And they can pack more than a punch with a bite that has a force of between 400 and 700 pounds.
Navy SEAL dogs are not the only doggie heroes. Dogs can be trained not only to detect bombs but to sniff out cancer as well. According to Japanese research published online by the British Medical Journal, studies have confirmed that a cancer scent exists and may be circulating in the body. Dogs are capable of nosing out cancer in stool and breath samples.
According to a report on ABC news, Dr. Sheryl Gabram-Mendola, a breast surgical oncologist at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, maintains that cancer causes the body to release certain organic compounds that dogs can smell but people cannot. She and her team of researchers developed a test that allows dogs to smell the breath for evidence of cancer in the body.
“Dogs smell different things and they understand different things,” says Charlene Bayer, a principal research scientist at Georgia Tech Research Institute. “They may not know what’s wrong, but they know there’s something that’s not normal, that you don’t smell the way you normally do,” she told ABC news.
As Diane Sawyer closed the evening news report on the Navy SEAL dogs, I was feeling better and better about my own furry companions’ distant relationship with those doggie heroes. Neither one of my Schnauzers can ferret out terrorists or corner criminals. The only thing Baylor is trained to do is roll over on his back so I can dry his wet paws, and Max, faithful dog that he is, doesn’t even do that, although when I command him to quit digging in the dirt, he obeys almost 50 percent of the time. But, perhaps like their cancer detecting counterparts who can sense when something’s wrong with us physically, they do curl up to any family member who isn’t feeling well, and they will bark furiously when a stranger, or a bird for that matter, enters our property. And what would my morning be without the dogs begging me for a hug?
As I clicked the channel to another station, both dogs simultaneously raised their noses as if to sniff something. Were they about to detect an explosive in the room? Were they going to smell a terrorist hiding in the house?
Nope. Instead of sniffing, they yawned, closed their eyes, and silently slipped back to sleep.
Editor’s note: Email David B. Whitlock, Ph.D. at email@example.com or visit his website at davidbwhitlock.com.