It’s well-known that dogs have acute senses, but one pooch apparently has an extra special ability — sniffing out when her owner is ill. Stephanie Herfel, a Wisconsin native, had been suffering from abdominal pain when her newly acquired Siberian husky, Sierra, did something unusual.


“She put her nose on my lower belly and sniffed so intently that I thought I spilled something on my clothes,” Herfel told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “She did it a second and then a third time. After the third time, Sierra went and hid. I mean hid!” Herfel decided to make an appointment with a gynecologist, who told her she had an ovarian cyst and sent her home with pain medication.

But when Herfel came home, her dog acted strangely again, rolling up in a tight ball inside a closet. Unnerved, she decided to get a second opinion. Several weeks later, a gynecologist confirmed she had stage III ovarian cancer. Herfel underwent a hysterectomy and had chemotherapy, but that wasn’t the end of the story.husky

After the first diagnosis in 2014, Sierra again exhibited the same unusual behavior, once in 2015 and again a year later. Each time, it was confirmed that cancer had returned — first to Herfel’s liver, then her pelvis. “I owe my life to that dog,” Herfel told the Journal Sentinel. “She’s really been a godsend to me. She has never been wrong.”Sierra is not the only dog who seems to have an ability to sense illness in its owner. Other dogs have reportedly been able to detect the presence of cancer. “It’s almost like the dog knows what’s going on and is scared,” Ashley Wagner, from the Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance, told the Journal Sentinel. “The dog didn’t want to be near her.”

Sierra reacted similarly when a friend with cancer visited Herfel, who is now cancer-free and working to raise funds for women with ovarian cancer. Herfel is also planning to write a book about the special relationship she has with her dog.