My editor sent me a story a few weeks back about a woman who says a dog saved her from a life-threatening brain injury. I added the story to my virtual "To Read" folder and only got to it yesterday, when it hit me like a ton of bricks. The short version: A nurse in Missouri was fighting off what she thought was a severe migraine headache when a colleague’s Maltese-Poodle mix (for whom she had no love-loss) began licking her right temple “as though it had been smeared with bacon grease”--in the words of a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter. Mary Phillips took the dog’s intervention as a warning and shuttled off to the ER, where doctors discovered and repaired a “giant,” leaking aneurysm.
The story is one more anecdote in a growing body of evidence that dogs can detect health problems we miss, including cancer and low-blood sugar. It’s also a reminder that they have things to tell us—some urgent and some less so—if we will pay attention. For me personally, the story took me back to my mother. She too suffered a debilitating headache, which kept her home from church one Sunday. While the rest of us where away from home, she was taken to the hospital where doctors discovered an aneurysm. In her case, it was too late. Having lived a lifetime without her, I feel a special admiration for Jacques-Pierre, the Maltese-mix who convinced Phillips to see a doctor in time to save her life.