A Husky named Sierra was given to Stephanie Herfel by her son as a gift, when he went overseas for the Air Force. Little did Stephanie know that Sierra would save her life multiple times. The adorable 9-month-old puppy would go on to use her snout to detect cancer.
Sierra was the first to detect ovarian cancer in Stephanie. She was experiencing pain in her abdomen and went into the emergency room. The doctor thought it was an ovarian cyst and sent her home with pain medicine. However, Sierra knew it was something serious.
“She put her nose on my lower belly and sniffed so intently that I thought I spilled something on my clothes. She did it a second and then a third time. After the third time, Sierra went and hid. I mean hid!” Stephanie told Jim Stingl at Journal Sentinel.
Her dog’s extreme reaction made her second guess the original diagnosis, so she contacted a gynecologist. “To see her become so afraid was spooky in its own right. So I made an appointment with a gynecologist and in a matter of weeks and some blood work with an ultrasound, on 11-11-13 I was sitting in the gynecology oncologist room in shock that I had cancer.”
The cancer was stage 3C, which is very serious, and because Sierra detected it when she did – she saved her life. Stephanie underwent treatment which included a hysterectomy, removal of her spleen and chemotherapy. With her loyal dog by her side, she made it through treatment and felt relieved.
Sadly, in 2015 Sierra reacted the same way she had two years prior, and the cancer had returned. This time the cancer was in her liver. In 2016, Sierra detected cancer again in her pelvic region. “I owe my life to that dog. She’s really been a godsend to me. She has never been wrong,” she said.
David Kushner, her oncologist, praised Sierra and said that other dogs have portrayed this same live-saving trait. Their accuracy rate is 98% and it applies to multiple types of cancer.
Gifted Sierra has also detected cancer in other people she has encountered. Stephanie recalls that her friend had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and when she visited their home, Sierra reacted the way she did when she detected her cancer. Another time, a woman was doing work on their home when Sierra had her reaction, so she contacted the company to let her know.
Sierra is very protective over Stephanie and gets anxious when she is not around, so the couple has another dog, Gizmo, to keep her company. Stephanie is in remission and credits sweet Sierra for saving her life. She recently posted her gratitude on Facebook, “I have been graced with a pet that turned into a life saver, nurse, and some spiritual relationship that can only be explained if you have had a chance to meet her! I am extremely grateful and in love with Sierra Belle Herfel and her peace maker Gizmo Harry Herfel.”
She is hoping that her story will help others listen to their intelligent pets. She has devoted her life to raising awareness and helping others with ovarian cancer. Dogs are so intuitive and smart with a nose that may just save your life.
Andrea Powell is an animal enthusiast that resides in West Michigan. When not writing, she is exploring the great outdoors with her dogs and horses.