A firefighter from Brevard County Florida had no idea his 11 pound miniature pinscher would save his life. His dog, Sabrina, had developed an annoying habit of biting, scratching and digging the back of Curtis Young’s head. Even though he thought it was his dandruff, when he told his doctor, he was scheduled for an MRI. The tests showed a tumor the size of a bullet pressing on his brain. Left unfound, his life would have been in jeopardy. Within six months he could have been paralyzed and dead within a year.
He was able to have the tumor surgically removed. When he lost his hearing due to the surgery, he thought he would also lose his job. After a year of light duty he was able to pass his physical test and return to work.
This isn’t the first time Young’s dog, Sabrina, came to the rescue. Recently she began biting a place on his neck. When he investigated, he felt a lump but still didn’t think it was serious. He should have known better. A biopsy showed basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer.
He said, “As far as special, she’s beyond special. There’s nothing that comes between me and her. She comes before anything and everything.”
Young almost passed this pup by when he met her at the Daytona Flea Market. Sabrina was one of the dogs there waiting for a new home. After playing with her and then leaving her to walk through the flea market, Young knew he had to have her and went back to purchase her. “She’s the daughter that I never had,” he said.
Sabrina’s veterinarian, Dr. Kimberly Jennings, believes the dog’s ability to sniff out cancer is not coincidence. She is aware of research out there that suggests dogs can help detect cancer. “In short, at this point in time, if your dog is tagging on you, figure it out,” she warns.
This dog-owner relationship is not one-sided. Young has also saved Sabrina. During the Christmas holiday in 2009 she contracted leptospirosis, an often-fatal bacterial disease. Young did not leave her side and stayed with her during the holidays. He faced the unthinkable decision whether or not to euthanize her. He believed in her and a clinic in Maitland was able to save her. Now age 13, Sabrina is still his little girl.
Young says, “There’s no way I could repay her for what she did. No way.”