John D was fortunate when Donna Waugh rescued him from the Little Rock, Arkansas animal shelter when he was just a puppy. She says they were made for each other. When she first saw the little Border Collie, she says that she just opened her arms and he came running into them and that was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.
Borders are known to have an excellent sense of smell and John D was no different. He went on his first search and rescue when he was only four months old and has been helping to locate people every since. "He's gone to a number of large national disasters including the Joplin tornado, the floods after Nashville, and then he responds here to the state police and local emergency officials for kidnappings, missing people," said Waugh.
If that wasn't enough to keep him busy, he has also been trained to detect human cancer by scent. By using urine, blood, and saliva samples, John D is able to determine if a patient has ovarian or thyroid cancer. "We teach them how to recognize a hot sample if you will – a sample of a cancer patient has ovarian or thyroid cancer," explains Dr. Arny Ferrando, Professor of Geriatrics, at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. "(The dogs) save a lot of time, money, and anxiety."
Because of his amazing work in helping humans, John D was nominated and became a finalist for the American Humane Association Hero Dog Award. This annual national competition "searches out and recognizes America's Hero Dogs that unconditionally avail themselves to us in so many import ways, whether it's saving lives on the battle field, lending sight or hearing to a human companion, providing therapeutic support to children suffering from cancer, or just greeting us with a tail wag at the end of the day." The Border Collie won the search and rescue category.
"This competition is considered the Nobel Prize for canines, so we are proud to represent the hopes and dreams of not only the SAR community, but also UAMS Canine Cancer Detection Studies," Waugh said. Finalists receive $1,500 towards the charity of their choice, with the winner receiving an additional $5,000 for their charity.
And as if rescuing people from natural disasters and uncovering cancer isn't enough, John D also comforts chemo patients and nursing home residents with an excited wag of the tail and, of course, his famous smile.