Heidi is a 125-pound black shepherd-Lab mix. The Baltimore native is a trained search-and-rescue dog, so her nose is a professional asset. This year, though, it turned out to be a personal one as well.
In February, Heidi started behaving unusually with her owner, Anne Wills. “She was physically barricading me on the couch,” Wills, the 52-year-old owner of the Arbutus, Maryland-based Dogs Finding Dogs tracking service, told The Baltimore Sun. “She was drooling and scratching at my arms.”
Heidi was also pushing her snout into Wills’s chest and pawing at her, so after the vet cleared the dog of health problems, Wills decided that she should get checked out. She did, and a CT scan revealed cancerous tumors in her lungs.
Wills’s cancer was discovered in Stage IIIa, where it had only spread to nearby lymph nodes. It’s far more treatable at this stage, and likely would have progressed further without chemotherapy and radiation, meaning Heidi’s miraculous diagnosis came just in the nick of time.
Wills had the largest of her three tumors removed with surgery, and the others are being treated with chemo and radiation. Since then, Heidi has left Wills alone, at least as much as any loving dog leaves its owner alone.
“But if she starts acting funny again, I’ll be on Dr. Cole’s doorstep, and I don’t care if it’s midnight,” said Wills.