Teva the Affenpinscher mix who sniffed out her owner's cancer.

When Diane Hood adopted her 7-year-old Affenpinscher mix six years ago, she had no idea her new dog would save her life.

Within the first week of arriving at Hood’s home, the little dog, whom she named Teva, became obsessed with a small dark spot on Hood’s leg. Hood thought the spot was just a bug bite. But it was something much more dangerous: squamous cell carcinoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer.

Today, Hood is cancer-free, and Teva is a therapy dog. Together, they bring happiness to people at nursing homes.

We caught up with Hood, a retiree from Sequim, Washington, to learn more about her pup’s remarkable rescue story.

Q: Can you tell us the story of how you rescued Teva?

A: My dog, who was 17 years old, died, and I was going to get this big, calm dog to replace it, and I saw [Teva’s] picture on Petfinder. She was a year old and had never had much of a home.

I almost didn’t get her. I was going to meet her and I almost had a stroke. My arteries narrowed down in my neck from stress. So I waited a month, and the one other person [the rescue] interviewed didn’t want her, so I got to have her when I met her.

Q: Do you know anything about her life before you found her?

When she was a couple of months old, she was in Ellensburg, Washington, and the people that had her put her in the pound because she was too friendly — she jumped on everybody and they didn’t want that. A rescue group took her in and ended up having her until she was a year old. I can’t think of why they kept her so long, because she was so cute.

Q: What was she like when you first brought her home?

The first week I had her, she found cancer on my leg. I had a dark spot on my leg and I thought it was a bug bite or something. There was no reason for her to sniff it. After a week of her being obsessed with [the dark spot], I went to the doctor and [found out] it was cancer. They took a chunk out of my leg. It was squamous cell carcinoma.

To this day — and I’ve had her five or six years — she’s still afraid to go to the bathroom. I think from being in that cage [in the shelter]. When I brought her home, she started running [from corner to corner] in the yard. She panicked when she was sent to go to the bathroom. She didn’t want to do it. And if she did it, she’d want to eat it right away because she was so upset with the whole thing. And I think it’s from being in a cage for that long.

Q: Have you taken her to a trainer or a behaviorist for this behavior?

I took her to dog school. She’s been to three. When I first got her, she had hardly been in a house really. She was like a 2-year-old. She was just bouncing off the walls. 

The behavior person said to always praise her when she goes. And I do that. So as soon as she goes, she looks up at me like, "Can I have a cookie now?"

I have osteoporosis, and my bones are getting stronger because of Teva. She makes me walk so far because of her fear of going to the bathroom. So I actually get more exercise. She forces to me walk farther than I normally would walk.

Q: What do you love most about Teva?

Her Petfinder ad said she was a very joyful dog looking for someone to share her joy. And she is that kind of dog. She makes everybody happy. Even if you’re doing something else, she’ll find a toy and throw it in the air and hug it and play all by herself. She’s a very happy little dog. She knows words. You have to practically spell or she’ll listen to what you’re talking about. She rolls over, she shakes hands, she dances and she crawls. When I have time, I’m going to teach her more because she’s very smart. She pays attention so well. 

Recently, I trained her to be a therapy dog, and she goes to nursing homes. People are so happy because I taught her how to do a little dance where she stands up and goes around in a circle.