Amazing Story Involves Dog, Cancer

Schnauzer on the run!.

It sounds like a hoax, but the source is ABC news, and it’s a true story: a miniature Schnauzer named Sissy showed up at the hospital where her owner was battling cancer.

The dog made the trip all the way from her home, which was some 20 blocks away. The dog and her owner, Nancy Franck, were at Mercy Medical Center in in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. No one knows for sure how she was able to navigate to success, but she did have some help, once inside.

Sissy in Cedar Rapids

According to ABC news, Sissy had gone missing around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 7th, and understandably, this had caused quite a bit of worry at home. The family had been calling for her by name, looking actively in the neighborhood for the missing Schnauzer.

Meanwhile, Sissy had been taking matters into her own paws.

At the entrance to the hospital, Sissy can be seen coming into the hospital via automatically opening doors in the ABC news coverage, here. Once in the hospital lobby, Sissy sniffed the air and headed toward the help desk for a moment, but the building’s elevators and lack of dog-friendly signage appeared to present a challenge for her in the quest to visit her owner.

At 5:30 a.m., the family received a call from the security officer at the hospital, who found the address and phone number on her tag on the collar.

Once at the hospital, the family received permission to take Sissy upstairs to visit her owner for just a few minutes – normally, non-working dogs are not generally permitted in hospitals, but rule makers had not anticipated this scenario, apparently.

Sissy was reunited with her owner Nancy, and all were amazed at this dog's early morning expedition.

Trained Therapy Dogs Aid Cancer Patients, Too

At Northwestern University’s Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, a Golden Retriever named Lexi earned “Participated in Total Care of the Patient,” on her resume, and boasts experience with palliative care and hospice patients.

According to sources at the cancer center, research suggests that animals can improve patient outcomes, decrease length of hospital stay, help with confusion, depression and help manage pain symptoms.

What about the need for a sterile environment? At Lurie Cancer Center, it turns out, “If a patient is unable to receive a visit from the dogs because of infection control, open wounds or compromised immune systems, the dogs are trained to stand in the doorway and wave to the patient.”

Why Do Furry Friends Help?

On one level, this is a question that doesn’t need an answer.

Of course they help. We are human beings, and we love our pets. A wise woman -- and a cancer survivor -- once said, “Dog is God Spelled Backwards.”

But, for those with a more scientific mindset, information from the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) is relevant:

“Studies have shown that animal-assisted therapy can decrease anxiety and pain, lower blood pressure and help alleviate depression, while offering welcome companionship and a positive distraction from treatment schedules and worries.”

CTCA cites a study published in the Journal of Community and Supportive Oncology in which 37 patients were visited daily by therapy dogs while receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments. After the dog visits, investigators say the patients had improvements in their emotional well being and quality of life, even if they were declining physically or in their ability to function.

How do Furry Friends Help?

According to CTCA, therapy pets can be especially beneficial to cancer patients by:

  • Easing their anxiety and elevating their mood
  • Offering company and comfort, thereby lessening feelings of isolation or loneliness
  • Providing a distraction from pain, stress or boredom
  • Relaxing them, especially since petting or snuggling with a soft, friendly animal can release endorphins that have a calming effect
  • Motivating them to get better
  • Increasing socialization and encouraging communication

 But, since you are a human being, you probably already knew that.


ABC News. Dog Shows Up at Hospital Where Owner Is Battling Cancer. Accessed March 2015.

A Helping Paw: Trained Therapy Dogs Aid Cancer Patients. Accessed March 2015.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Sit, stay and heal: Therapy dogs help soothe cancer patients. Accessed March 2015.

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