A clever dog Picture: DOCTOR NGCOBO

Tanya Waterworth

WHEN Mandy Hoffman-Jensen’s dog Archie kept whining and pushing her friend, Melanie Lambrecht’s stomach with his nose, day after day, the two women joked that she may be pregnant.

But recalling those few weeks, Lambrecht said she had in fact been feeling nauseous, and had a slight nagging pain in her stomach. She started to wonder if the dog had a sixth sense – so she went to the doctor for a check-up.

“They discovered I had a tumour the size of a grapefruit on my liver.”

Being told she had a 50/50 chance of survival, Melanie had the tumour removed six weeks ago. When she visited Hoffman-Jensen for the first time 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 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.”

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’ ability to detect illness was becoming widespread and they were already being used in the US to detect cancer.

“Unfortunately this type of detection is not being done in South Africa yet,” said Clayton.

Durban dog trainer Pam Naude said dogs were also being trained overseas to detect other illnesses such as blood disorders, and to pick up if someone is going to have a seizure.

“Never underestimate a dog, and if your dog does something unusual, pay attention,” said Naude.