BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT) — A dog trainer in Vestavia Hills is working to raise money for research that teaches dogs to detect cancer.

Cindy Roberts owns Use Your Nose Dog Training. The business trains dogs for sense sports, but now their focus is on teaching dogs to detect cancer.

“A cancer detection dog is a dog that is trained to detect cancer either in a blood sample or urine sample,” Roberts said. “The dogs have been shown in research studies, to be able to detect it before traditional testing means have been able to locate it. Dogs have been able to find it in what they cause stage zero when it’s first starting.”

Roberts has been meeting with researchers. The business is in need of donations to fund the study. Roberts works with the dogs by using blood and urine samples from cancer patients.

“We take a sample that they have agreed to let us have, and put it in our little rack that we have. The dogs go and sniff on that, and if they detect cancer in it than they’ll give us an indication,” Roberts said. “We use a lot of food, positive training methods while we’re getting them to learn how to sniff on the apparatus. And then once we get the cancer samples they began to associate the cancer smell with getting a treat or a tug toy. So when they find it, they’re like oh I’m going to get something good, and let us know that they found something.”

For Roberts, this type of work is personal.

“My mom actually had three different types of cancer over the course of her lifetime. It began with a melanoma, then a few years later it was a completely different case of breast cancer. And then a couple of years later she had lung cancer, and she was diagnosed on a Tuesday and passed away the following Monday. So we only had six days to say goodbye,” Roberts said. “At that point, I had promised mom, that I will try to do what I can so that other people don’t have just six days with a loved one. I was out in California training for one of the sense sports, I saw a news article on a lady in Chico, California that was training dogs to detect cancer. So I said, I think I found my calling.”

If you would like to donate to help Roberts cause or learn more, click here.