When Mandy Hoffman-Jenson’s dog, Archie, kept whining and pushing at her friend, Melanie Lambrecht’s, stomach with his nose day after day, both women joked that she may be pregnant.
Recalling those few weeks, Lambrecht said she had been feeling nauseous for a couple of weeks, and had a nagging pain in her stomach. She started to wonder if the dog had a sixth sense. Could she be expecting her third child?
“It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, so I went to the doctor. At first they thought something was wrong with my gall bladder, so I went for a scan. That’s when they discovered I had a tumour the size of a grapefruit on my liver.”
Being told she had a 50/50 chance of survival, Lambrecht had the tumour removed six weeks ago and, when she visited Hoffman-Jensen this week, Archie showed no interest in her stomach, but did sit close to her with a protective stance.
“I’m sure he somehow knew something was wrong with me. Archie’s not a friendly dog, so when he kept whining and putting his head on my stomach, his behaviour was totally out of character,” said Lambrecht.
And his owner, Hoffman-Jensen is the first to point out that Archie is a very anti-social dog and doesn’t like people at the best of times.
“As a puppy he was being drowned in a bucket of water when he was rescued.
“When he came to me, he was a really nasty piece of work. He would fight and bite me,” said Hoffman-Jensen.
Today Archie is clearly devoted to her and, although he may be suspicious of people, he is a wonderful “doctor” when Hoffman-Jensen brings in new puppies to rehabilitate.
“He will lick them over and over, which stimulates the body and bowels… He is the most amazing dog with other animals, including an injured mynah bird,” she said.
Chairman of the Animal Behaviour Consultants of SA Kathy Clayton said knowledge of dogs’ abilities to detect illness was becoming widespread and they were being used in the US to detect cancers.
“Unfortunately this type of detection is not being done in South Africa yet,” said Clayton.
Durban dog trainer Pam Naude said dogs were being trained overseas to detect various illnesses, such as blood disorders, and picking up if someone is about to have a seizure.
“If your dog does something unusual, pay attention,” said Naude, adding this type of behaviour would include barking, whining and pushing in the same place or any unusual repetitive behaviour.
“If your dog starts with this type of behaviour on a daily basis, go to a doctor,” she said.