Cancer-sniffing dog trainer speaks in Lower Mainland

Woman coming to Langley hoping to start non-profit organization for cancer-sniffing dogs

By Bob Groeneveld/Langley Advance Times

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Dogs’ sense of smell is legendary.

The average dog has more than 50 times as many odour receptors in their nose than the average human.

And the part of the brain devoted to smell is about 40 times as large in dogs’ brains.

It has been estimated that their sense of smell is at least 10,000 times – and maybe as much as 100,000 times – as sensitive as ours.

Dogs have been used to sniff out the trails of everything from foxes to fugitives.

At airports and other public places they are used to sniff out drugs and minute amounts of explosives – even trace amounts of some of the chemicals used to make drugs and explosives.

Dogs have been trained to sniff for medical conditions in people. Some can detect diabetes in a person before blood tests show its presence.

Recently, there has been mounting scientific evidence that some dogs can smell certain kinds of cancer.

Ariel Verge is coming to Langley from her home in Clearwater, B.C., to talk about how dogs might be trained to save lives by sniffing out cancerous cells.

She’ll lead two sessions about Cancer Sniffing Dogs of Canada’s Call to Action Campaign, to share awareness about the science of cancer detection by dogs, and to find people willing to build a non-profit organization to promote training and using dogs to help people with cancer.

She’ll be speaking on Sunday, April 14, 5:30-6:30 p.m., and on Tuesday, April 16, 10:30-11:30 a.m. Both sessions will be at the Church in the Valley, 23589 Old Yale Road.

Verge is a certified dog trainer and runs Verge of Dawn Canine Training.

In November 2016 she was the first Canadian student to attend the second-ever course held by the In Situ Foundation, which created the first medical protocol for selection, training and handling of a medical scent detection dog.

Her official certification is Bio-Dog Medical Scent Detection Trainer.

“I really got started in this because of my Aunt Millie McConnell, a 16 year stomach cancer survivor,” she said. “I love training dogs, it is something that comes naturally to me and makes me feel alive. I was blown away with the ability of a dog’s nose and the multitude of ways that they could help people, and I was drawn immediately to the idea of cancer detection.”

Her immediate interest is in stomach cancer: “I would really like to give a viable screening method for the type of cancer that is still causing [her aunt] pain even today, because of her mentorship work.”

But she believes promoting general awareness of what dogs can do in the field of cancer detection will help get her there.

“In 2016 I came back from school, certified and with a lot of big ideas on what Cancer Sniffing Dogs of Canada could become,” she said. “In 2017 I began the Awareness Campaign to spread the news of their abilities and the potential they offered.”

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