Heroic hound! Rescue dog saves owner’s life by sniffing out deadly cancer that she mistook for a spot
A rescue dog has saved her owner’s life thanks to sniffing out her potentially deadly cancer that she mistook for a spot.
Lauren Gauthier, 42, from Buffalo, New York, USA, initially dismissed the small reddish lump on her right nostril last year until her curious canine persisted to pay attention to the area.
The persistence of one-eyed rescue dog Victoria, a treeing walker coonhound, encouraged her to go to have a skin biopsy, which would come back as basal cell carcinoma.
To remove the cancer, plastic surgeons cut away one-square-centimetre of skin and then filled the gap with a graft before sewing it back up.
Fortunately, thanks to her early diagnosis the cancer hadn’t spread or developed into a deadly melanoma, that could have killed her.
Now fully recovered and having regained feeling on her nostril, Lauren and husband Benjamin, 42, are thankful to the dog they adopted last year, who is credited for saving her life.
As someone who used tanning beds up to three times a week in her teenage years, she is warning others about skin cancer and the risks of vanity.
Lauren, an attorney, said: “I initially thought it was a pore that had opened up, it looked red with a little bit of a blister, it went away but it reappear.
“I thought I had scratched my nose or that it was a spot, it’s very easy to dismiss something so normal.
“But In late summer, I noticed Victoria focusing on my face and then constantly smelling that part of my nose, more so than usual.
“It struck me as odd at first but then she did it again, she seemed to be smelling the area for a lengthy period of time and would continue to do it, even when I leaned down to pet her.
“Her nose would follow me right down to that specific area of my nose, it was weird.
“You hear about dogs being able to sense things like cancer and with her being a hound dog they have an especially good sense of smell.
“I also had a lingering concern because of my tanning bed usage in earlier years and that at some point I could have skin cancer.
“If it wouldn’t have been for Victoria focusing on that area for so long, I would have continued to ignore it for a longer period of time.
“It’s the old adage of ‘Who rescued who?’ we brought her from a high-kill shelter and she’s more than returned the favour.”
After Lauren’s biopsy results returned, confirming she had basal cell carcinoma, she went under the knife.
The surgery, five months ago, removed layers of skin until there were cancer free margins, then covered the area in her right nostril.
Lauren said: “It was scary, but I was happy to be in the hands of someone who was a skilled plastic surgeon.
“He cut a piece of skin off the top portion of my right nostril and used it to cover the hole in my skin, he then stitched it up and closed it.
“It bled quite a bit and I was instructed to keep it clean, thankfully the pain levels were not too bad.
“I didn’t have feeling in my nose for two months and am only just starting to regain full feeling, as well as the swelling going down and scarring healing well.”
Now fully recovered she has been left with scarring that she is considering having revised with more surgery later this year.
Lauren said: “My nostril is a little misshapen, it looks like someone has put a fish hook through my nose and pulled it up.
“I’m happy with the healing of the scar, I wish that I didn’t have a different shaped nostril, but it’s been a humbling experience.
“It has let me focus on things outside of my physical appearance.”
Lauren has been given the all clear but will continue to have annual checks for skin cancer, but was lucky the cancer didn’t spread any further.
Thanks to her heroic hound Victoria, who she adopted eight months ago from her organisation Magic’s Mission Beagle and Hound Rescue, she had her symptoms checked out early.
Lauren said: “When she came to us in the shelter she arrived with a very badly damaged eye. After fostering her we fell in love and decided to adopt her.
“While we don’t know what caused the injuries to her eye, many hounds sustain wounds while hunting because they are brave and hardly think of what they are running through when chasing something.”
According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, anyone using a tanning bed before the age of 35, drastically increases their risk of a melanoma by 75%.
Lauren started using them at the age of 16, tanning multiple times a week before a holiday as well as once a week for maintenance in summer and every other month in winter.
She encourages people considering tanning beds to find other ways to overcome their insecurities rather than fixating on their physical appearance.
Lauren said: “I felt like I looked better tanned and would go in the summer and occasionally over the winter to brighten up a bit until I was in my early 20s when I wised up more.
“Especially being so young you think 42 is another world away and don’t worry about the consequences as much.
“I would advise anyone considering sun beds to think about what you’re doing to your skin and your health.
“I was fortunate with this cancer, if I hadn’t got it checked out it could have spread further or left me severely disfigured.”