By Nelson Groom
A blind dog miraculously saved his owner’s life by sniffing out her cancer just months after she tragically lost her husband to the same cruel disease.
Former gardener Katherine Barry, 52, thought a growth on her hand was an infection before her 11-year-old Jack Russell cross, James, began repeatedly licking the spot last month.
The mum-of-four knew something was wrong because the remarkable pooch did the same thing to late husband Alan, 70, before his skin cancer diagnosis in 2015.
And just days after James began displaying the unusual behavior Katherine was diagnosed with the same disease that claimed her husband’s life last year.
Luckily Katherine, from Babakin, Western Australia, had the growth removed within a week and needed no further treatment – with doctors admitting she owes her life to her quick-thinking pup.
The 52-year-old said: “I noticed the growth on my hand, but I thought it was a skin infection from gardening.
“James just kept licking my hand every time I sat down or gave him a scratch.
“I kept thinking he was being affectionate and I said to him ‘I know it’s infected’.
“I told my doctor what James was doing and he said ‘I can see why you’re concerned’ – it put the fear of God in me.
“It scared the hell out of me when he told me the diagnosis. I watched Alan die a horrible death through this.
“My first question was ‘if this is the same cancer which took my husband, will it do the same thing to me?
“But luckily I have a very clever little dog and they caught it in time. Needless to say, James gets to sleep on the bed now.”
Katherine welcomed James into her family home in Victoria as a puppy after he captured her heart with his laid-back nature.
Thanks to James raising the alarm so quickly, Katherine had the roughly 1.5cm growth in her hand removed within the same week of visiting the doctor.
She does not need any further treatment for now but has been told by doctors to stay out of the sun where possible and use maximum strength sunscreen.
Katherine’s husband of 19 years Alan died in October last year after his battle with the disease and was laid to rest in his hometown of Sheparton, Victoria.
He was first diagnosed in 2015 after James began jumping onto his shoulders and licking a patch on his neck every time he sat down.
There was nothing different about the section of skin to the human eye, but after Alan visited his GP medics told him he needed to see a skin specialist urgently.
Tragically Alan, who was born in London, UK, and served as a Warrant Officer II in the Australian Army, died exactly one year to the day after he was declared to be in remission.
Katherine said: “When James began licking my hand, I remembered when he did the same thing with Alan.
“He had barely gone near him before that and there wasn’t a mark on his neck or anything.
“It was really strange, and I never believed in that stuff, but he just kept doing it for a few days until we went to our doctor.
“I guess it must be because he’s blind that he is extra sensitive to this stuff.
“When I first saw him as a puppy, the rest of his litter were going crazy and he just looked at me as if to say ‘why have you interrupted my sleep?’ I knew then we had to take him.
“He’s a clever little dog. But now, whenever he licks any of my friends they are terrified.”
Mum-of-four Katherine now wants to raise awareness of skin cancer and has some words of wisdom for anyone who works outdoors or notices spots on their skin which are out of the ordinary.
She said: “I’ve always worked outdoors and used sunscreen, but not once did I think to put it on my hands. You can’t forget to put it anywhere.
“And keep an eye out. Not all skin cancer looks the same. If your gut is telling you to get it checked, do it.”