Bob Howell

As I was preparing this week's conversation, I found out how treatment of some of the most dreadful diseases known to man are literally going to the dogs. 

It's true.

The cover story in this month's Reader's Digest was about how medical scientists have been stunned by the incredible abilities of specially trained dogs that can sniff out the distinct odor given off by a disease like cancer. Odors that no human being can come close to detecting.

According to the article, a dog's nose has about 300 million olfactory receptors ... 60 times more than human beings. A dog also devotes 35 percent of its brain's processing power to smelling, compared to five percent for a man.

In other words, there's no comparison between the two. Man's best friend wins hands down. No contest.

Now, scientists are working to create a mechanical version of the dog's super-smeller nose. Between now and then, patients may find themselves sharing their exam room with a four-legged friend. 

Until the new version of the canine "schnoz" is perfected, your overall exam may include a full body sniffing rather than a hi-tech, high-dollar, electronic scan.

Can't you just see your health insurance bill now ... "Dr. Spot- $250 for a sniffing." (No charge for cheese cube treat).

The article from Reader's Digest included the story of what may have been the first account of a dog sniffing out a malignant tumor in his owner, a 44-year-old patient at  King's College Hospital in London. 

The woman said her Doberman-border collie mix had become fixated on a mole on the her upper leg. After the dog tried to bite the mole off the woman's thigh, she went to the doctor where the diagnosis was made.

With promising results on the medical front, let's bring our focus to Auburn University where, according to a university press release, sniffing dogs are being trained for another kind of high tech sniffing ... catching terrorists in the act.

The dogs are known as Vapor Wake dogs ... specially trained to detect the otherwise invisible vapor trail given off by people carrying explosives. 

They're referred to as "elite canines" by the co-director of Auburn's Canine Performance Sciences Program, Paul Waggoner. He says only "about 10 percent — or less — of the dogs selected for typical detection work" will make the cut to move into the elite category. 

As you might imagine, a lot of "Auburn Dogs" are working in sensitive missions and the people they work for are not always in a position to talk about their assignments. We do know that more than a dozen Auburn Dogs are helping keep the peace in the Big Apple. The New York Police Department has 14 Vapor Wake dogs working to assist its Counterterrorism Bureau.

You may be of the age where you just don't enjoy being around HUGE crowds. 

Dogs don't all do well at sporting events, concerts or even mass-transit hubs with their huge throngs of people. Auburn Vapor Wake dogs don't let the crowds deter them from their mission and the job they're trained to do. 

And they do it to perfection.

War Eagle!


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