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Doctors Dismissed This Woman’s Fears – But Her Husky Knew Better And Kept Sniffing Around

Stephanie Herfel and Sierra

Stephanie Herfel is an ex-marine from Madison, Wisconsin. When her son was deployed overseas with the United States Air Force, he had a dog. Her name is Sierra, and she was only nine-months-old at the time. This was in 2011. From the time that Sierra went to live with Stephanie, they were best friends.


A year after Stephanie took in Sierra, the two moved to California. Stephanie was originally from California, and she decided that it was time to make a change. She and Sierra moved to Wisconsin, which had much harsher winters than California. She chose the state’s capital, Madison, and temperature drops as low as 13 degrees during the winter. Because Sierra is a Siberian husky, Stephanie wasn’t worried about her. Siberian huskies are used to being in harsh weather conditions.

Siberian Huskies

The Siberian husky was formally recognized in the United States by the American Kennel Club since 1930. It was five years earlier that the breed became famous. An event took place in 1925 called the Serum Run, transversing Alaska. A total of 150 Siberian huskies took part in the event, and they pulled sleds across the state to deliver a diphtheria cure to the people in the area which was facing an epidemic. Siberian huskies were also in the spotlight during the Great Race of Mercy. The lead dog of the winning team was Balto, and he became a celebrity. In New York’s Central Park, there is a statue of Balto. In 1995. He was the focus of an animated movie, and Kevin Bacon was the voice of Balto.

Stephanie’s Protector

Stephanie and Sierra were very close. They often went for long walks and played ball in the yard. Sierra was also very protective of Stephanie. When the two would lie down, Sierra always positioned herself in between Stephanie and any outside access point.

Health Issues

Stephanie and Sierra had been living in the Midwest for about a year before she started to experience health issues. She was experiencing pain in her midsection and didn’t want to take any chances. She went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst. The doctor sent her home with pain medication, telling her than the cyst would go away with her next period. She was relieved that there was nothing seriously wrong.

Sierra’s Strange Behavior

When Stephanie returned home, Sierra started acting strangely. She would put her nose on Stephanie’s lower belly and sniff. She was sniffing so hard that she thought that maybe she spilled something on her clothes. In a second time, and then a third, and Stephanie finally had to get up an hide from the dog. She had never seen Sierra act this way.

Something Wasn’t Right

Sierra used her keen sense of smell to determine that there was something wrong with Stephanie. Dogs are known to have a very keen sense of smell. Italian shepherds were trained by Italian researchers to smell urine samples for evidence of prostate cancer. In 90 percent of the cases, the dogs were correct. Dogs are also being trained to detect breast cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, malaria. Stephanie had heard about dogs being able to detect disease, which is why she started to worry about her own health. She was sure that Sierra was trying to tell her that she had more than just an ovarian cyst. Stephanie didn’t want to take any chances. She believed that Sierra was picking up on something, so she made an appointment with the gynecologist.

A Diagnosis

Stephanie scheduled an appointment with her gynecologist. She told the doctor about the diagnosis she received in the emergency room, and the doctor ordered blood tests, and on November 11, 2013, her doctor told her that she had cancer. The emergency room doctor misdiagnosed her cyst. She actually had ovarian cancer. This type of cancer can be challenging to diagnose because the symptoms can be mistaken for common issues that women often experience. Stephanie was devastated when she found out that she had cancer. Fortunately, cancer hadn’t spread to any other parts of her body, and Stephanie has Sierra to thank.

Early Diagnosis

The best chance of survival is early detection. The survival rate for ovarian cancer is 47 percent. When the disease is caught early, before it can spread to other parts of the body, the survival rate rises to 92 percent. Had Sierra not been acting strangely, Stephanie would have gone on believing that she had an ovarian cyst.


The doctors diagnosed Stephanie with stage 3C ovarian cancer, and she had to have a full hysterectomy. The doctors also had to remove her spleen. After the surgery, she underwent chemotherapy for nearly six months. When she completed treatment, she went back to California to treat herself to a vacation in Disneyland. Doctors Dismissed This Woman’s Fears – But Her Husky Knew Better And Kept Sniffing Around. Fortunately, the disease was caught while there were still treatment options. Sierra saved Stephanie’s life.


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