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Jun. 17, 2011

Wally’s Nose…Knows

by Ally Ruchman

By Ally Ruchman, Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School

When Wally catches a scent, he wiggles his black nose, his full nostrils flare. His long, low-set, floppy ears, which turn slightly towards his cheeks help trap the smell. He drops his head and follows the scent. I call this Wally’s “mission mode.”

Every time we go to the hospital he is on “mission mode.” He searches for treats as we wind through the corridors on our way to Radiology. On occasion, he’ll find food that patients have dropped on the floor. He’ll howl and wag his tail with delight, but he won’t eat it. I guess all that training has its benefits.

Wally has had some poignant professional experiences regarding his nose. A young woman who was waiting for her MRI kept talking with Wally. In return, Wally began sniffing at her right hip. And as she began filling out the questionnaire for our MRI research project, Wally placed his head on the side of her hip and gave a few soft yelps. This was not his usual drill. The woman told me that she had cancer in her hip. Wally’s keen sense of smell had detected this patient’s problem.

There have been many studies regarding dogs sniffing cancer. Some dogs can smell up to one million times better than humans, so I guess it is easy to understand that Wally’s nose…knows.

Wally also detected a problem with a young boy who was waiting with his mom in the waiting room. The boy wanted to pick up Wally as his mom filled out the questionnaire. I let him, and Wally started licking the boy’s face. The boy thought it was funny. But, when he put Wally down, Wally started rubbing his nose on the boy’s knee and scratching it. The boy exclaimed, “How does Wally know that I have a problem with my knee?”

Read previous entries in the Wally Diaries:
Meet Wally the Therapy Dog
Training a Therapy Dog
The Big Test
It isn’t magic…it is science!
The Best Part of Dog Therapy….The Patients.
_______________________
Ally Ruchman is a junior at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School in Rumson, NJ. She loves animals, reading, science, and traveling.

About Ally Ruchman

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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