The life of a dog that competes in dog shows is full of ups and downs. Sometimes they enter the competitor’s circle and leave triumphant, other times they come away without a rosette despite putting on their best performance. One dog that is used to the ups and downs of competing is Dolly, a prize-winning Pembroke Welsh Corgi. According to I Heart Dogs, Dolly was fortunate enough to land herself a place at the 2020 Westminster Dog Show. It was exciting for Dolly and her human parents to compete at such a prestigious event, and it was the highlight of what had already been a very successful year at the dog competitions. Although Dolly prepared well for the event and tried her best when she entered the arena, she did not win a ribbon on this occasion. However, neither Dolly nor her companions could have cared less because they had already had a bigger win when Dolly detected her human’s cancer and then went on to help her beat it. For Dolly, saving her companion’s life was a bigger win than any achievement at the Westminster Dog Show.
Dolly’s human parents are Ann and Sean Sullivan. Two years ago, the family faced a terrible situation together when Sean was diagnosed with stage 2 colorectal cancer. Although this diagnosis was a shock to Ann and Sean, it was like Dolly already knew that something was wrong with her owner. She had shown signs of knowing that something was wrong with her human. In the weeks that led up to his diagnosis, Dolly had not left Sean’s side. Wherever he went, Dolly was always with him. If he took a nap, she would curl up next to him; when he went upstairs, Dolly trailed behind him. Although Dolly was close to both Sean and Ann, this was unusual behavior. They now believe that she already had an insight into what they were about to discover. Sean became so ill that he could no longer go to work, and that was the point when he decided to go to the doctor. This was when they learned just how ill Sean really was.
It may seem surprising that Dolly was able to detect Sean’s illness, but it is proven that dogs can detect various types of cancer. According to Medical News Today, dogs have a superior sense of smell to humans, and this allows them to detect changes in odor that humans cannot detect. Each type of cancer has a specific smell with which it is associated, and a dog can differentiate between these smells. Just some of the types of cancer that a dog can detect include colon cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma, and breast cancer. After research revealed that dogs were able to do this, there are now dogs being trained for this specific purpose. This is not the only way that dogs are used for their superior sense of smell. They are also used in multiple other working roles, such as supporting the police by sniffing out drugs and helping the armed forces to detect explosives. In the case of Dolly, it seems that her excellent smell and her close bond with her humans are both elements that came into play in her detecting cancer.
Once Sean had received his diagnosis, his ordeal had only just begun. It was the beginning of a difficult journey as he began his aggressive treatment. This involved two surgeries, six months of chemotherapy, and 28 radiation treatments. Throughout the treatment, the medical team told him that his outlook would play a significant role in his chances of recovery. Having a positive attitude can improve a person’s chances of overcoming many illnesses. In terms of Sean having a positive outlook, Dolly was about to play an important role in his life. While he was receiving the treatment, she continued to support him, showing him lots of love and affection. She gave him constant attention so that he never felt alone throughout his ordeal. Although Ann was Dolly’s handler, it was now Sean that was getting all of Dolly’s time and love. Due to Sean receiving treatment, he and Ann did not have the time or energy to take Dolly along to the dog shows to compete. Instead, they asked Sue King to step in to take her to the shows. They did not want Dolly to miss out on the events as she loves taking part. Although life at home was difficult, it did not stop Dolly from stepping up and taking on the challenge at the shows.
Time after time she won title after title. This meant that she soon climbed up the ranks with the American Kennel Club. This was how she won the right to compete at the 2020 Westminster Dog Show. Not only was competing in such an event important for Dolly, but it was also important to give Ann and Sean a positive outlook. Speaking of their ordeal and about how Dolly had helped them, Ann told the Washington Post that taking part in the dog shows was instrumental in keeping their mind off Sean’s cancer. Every time Dolly came home with a ribbon, it gave them something else to think about. She said that when you have a loved one fighting cancer, every little thing can make a difference to your outlook and your ability to cope with the situation. Sean agreed with his wife and said that there is a lot more to Dolly than simply being a dog that can walk around the show ring. Both Sean and Ann agree that Dolly has played a huge role in his battle against cancer. Without Dolly, the journey would have been completely different. They are extremely grateful for the support that their little Corgi has given to them during this difficult time.