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Blind Dog Spots Owner’s Cancer

by Bethany Meissner

Photo Credit: The Daily Mail

Katherine Barry’s 11-year-old blind dog, James, is a Jack Russell mix. He is also a lifesaver. Katherine and her doctors say that James is responsible for catching Katherine’s cancer before it could metastasize and endanger her life.

Katherine is 52 and likes to garden outside her home in Babakin, a town in Western Australia. She spotted a growth on her hand but, as she told The Daily Mail, she “thought it was a skin infection from gardening.” However, then her dog started acting oddly. “James just kept licking my hand every time I sat down or gave him a scratch,” she said. What made the behavior particularly concerning was that this wasn’t the first time James had paid attention to a specific area of someone’s skin. James had done the same with Katherine’s late husband, Alan. Unfortunately, Alan's cancer wasn't diagnosed early enough and Katherine's beloved 70-year-old husband sadly passed away.

Thankfully, Katherine paid attention to her dog’s behavior and quickly went to see her doctor. Katherine shared, “I told my doctor what James was doing and he said, ‘I can see why you’re concerned.’” She admitted, “it put the fear of God in me.” However, because of how swiftly Katherine was diagnosed, her outcome has been fantastic. Within a week of first seeing her doctor about the small growth, Katherine was able to have it removed. Although doctors have advised Katherine to use maximum strength sunscreen and avoid the sun as much as possible, they don’t believe that she needs any further treatment.

Photo Credit: The Daily Mail

Now, the mother of four is raising awareness of skin cancer. It's a particular concern in Australia where skin cancer accounts for about 80% of all new cancer diagnoses. According to the Cancer Council Australia, approximately 66% of Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer at some point in their lives.

“I’ve always worked outdoors and used sunscreen, but not once did I think to put it on my hands. You can’t forget to put it anywhere,” Katherine advised.  “… Keep an eye out. Not all skin cancer looks the same. If your gut is telling you to get it checked, do it,” she added.

Katherine’s friends certainly are on the alert. James is “a clever little dog,” Katherine said, “But now, whenever he licks any of my friends they are terrified.” Katherine is simply grateful for James. “Luckily I have a very clever little dog and they caught it in time,” she said. It’s a lesson for all of us to pay attention to what our pets are trying to tell us – both about themselves and about us! Katherine has a hypothesis as to why James was able to spot her cancer, “I guess it must be because he’s blind that he is extra sensitive to this stuff.” We don’t know the reason, but we do know Katherine is one lucky owner and James is one wonderful dog.