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Florin, Iggy and Asher, bio detection dogs and owner, Dr. Claire Guest OBE

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Dogs with Jobs

Celebrate the frontline workers of the canine world. Kate Fairweather comes face to face with a diverse cast of working dogs, perfectly equipped with 
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In the first of a two part series, this month, Dogs with Jobs presenter Kate Fairweather visits the charity, Medical Detection Dogs and hears from its CEO, Dr. Claire Guest.

Claire led the team responsible for the world’s first study of canine detection of bladder cancer, which was published in the BMJ in September 2004. She founded the charity on little more than anecdotes and what was at the time - despite being published in the BMJ -  considered to be an eccentric conviction that dogs' olfactory superpowers could bring something new to the table in cancer research.

In a wide ranging conversation, Claire talks candidly about how her first dog, Daisy, detected her own breast cancer. She explains the charity's work in the key area of bio detection (the other is medical alert assistance dogs, which is the subject of a separate  episode). 

We are introduced to Claire's three pet dogs, who work as detection dogs at the charity's headquarters.

  • Florin is a red Labrador, whose detection work data is being shared with a research team at M.I.T. in Boston to help them understand and ‘map’ how a dog perceives “bio markers” - which means the subtle changes in scent that indicate the changes in a human body caused by cancer or other disease. The data is feeding into the creation of an effective artificial intelligence algorithm for prostate cancer detection.
  • Iggy and Asher are rescue dogs, for whom life as a pet didn't work out and who have settled since being given a job. Superstar Asher started on malaria and moved onto Covid-19. (It is unusual it is rare to be redeployed in this line of work and bio detection dogs tend to specialise for their whole career. 

Update: in the King's Birthday Honours in June 2023, Claire was recognised for her work with an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to Medical Knowledge, Public Health and Wellbeing. As we note in this episode, she started the charity 15 years ago based on little more than a hunch that dogs had plenty to teach us about scent. What a long way it's come since then.

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Do you work your dog or know someone else who might like to come on the show? Get in touch with Kate, via team@shineradio.uk.

Find more dogs with interesting jobs. 

© & ℗ Kate Fairweather, 2023

 

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