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Murphy the Hero Dog

by Beth Napolitano
Murphy alerted his family to one member's leukemia two months before it was officially diagnosed
Murphy alerted his family to one member’s leukemia two months before it was officially diagnosed

Dogs have an intense ability to smell. Around 60 percent of a dog’s brain is dedicated to being able to identify, sort and locate smells. All dogs have the ability to smell and track multiple odors simultaneously, but many times pet dogs don’t know how to make use of their noses. However, many dogs also figure out how to use their gift.  Murphy, a beagle who has had no training in scent whatsoever, has managed to do this.

When Murphy was about six months old he suddenly started focusing on my brother-in-law, Guido.  Murphy would single Guido out in a room full of family members, all of whom he loved, and would obsessively lick him from head to toe.  Within a couple of months Guido began to not feel well and, ultimately, was diagnosed with leukemia. Only then did we realize that Murphy had alerted us on Guido’s health status change.

Over the course of the chemotherapy treatments Murphy focused less on Guido and the obsessive licking stopped. Chemo started working and Guido went into remission.  Guido has done well over the last year but, about two months ago, Murphy again started focusing on him and recommenced his obsessive licking.  Guido felt absolutely fine and had no symptoms but I insisted he return to the oncologist for bloodwork.  His bloodwork and PET scan have so far been normal, but his CT scan showed an enlargement of the liver and spleen. The oncologist confirmed that Murphy was right, Guido’s health status had changed. And, just as before, Murphy’s obsession with Guido has continued.  Just two weeks ago Guido suddenly began to develop symptoms, including abdominal pain and severe fatigue. He also suffered a 10 pound weight loss.  The oncologist is still running tests and thinks the leukemia may now be in the bone marrow. We are currently waiting for the results of his bone marrow biopsy.

Thankfully, Guido was willing to heed the little dog’s warning and headed for the oncologist’s office much sooner than he would have if he had waited for symptoms to return.  This should give him a head start on starting treatment which will, hopefully, improve his chances to go into remission again. This is a story about listening to our dogs and paying attention to what may seem like unusual behavior.  This little beagle is my hero, an angel sent to watch over his family. Murphy will be checking Guido on a monthly basis from now on so that he will always get a head start on finding out the status of his health.  Listen to the dogs. If your untrained dog appears to alert out of the blue, listen to him. It could save your life, or the life of a loved one.

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