This is the story of an amazing connection between a woman and her dog — a special bond that helped save one life and help many others.

Deborah Greco, DVM, Ph.D, has dedicated her life to wellness. She's the former Chief of Medicine at The Animal Medical Center in New York City and spent 12 years as a Professor of Medicine at Colorado State University. Today she's the Senior Research Scientist for Purina.

In 2005, Dr. Deb was diagnosed with breast cancer. Almost 12% of women in the U.S. will receive such a diagnosis. But there was something special about Dr. Deb's case — how her cancer was detected.

The Bonds of Trust

When Twist — Dr. Deb's blue standard Poodle — started making moaning sounds each time she snuggled against her human's chest, the trained veterinarian knew something was wrong. Very wrong. Twist's strange behavior continued. She began to withdraw from her owner and have accidents in the house.

It turned out that Twist wasn't sick. Dr. Deb was.

"I know she smelled it. Actually, it was Twist's intuition that motivated me to see my doctor," Dr. Deb explained during an interview with Purina Petcentric. "After I had my surgery, Twist stopped. I read a lot about dogs having the ability to smell tumors. So, I always feel safe that I have not had a recurrence of my cancer, because she's not shying away from me."

In the months immediately following her diagnosis — during surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments — Twist was by Dr. Deb's side, even when the dog was pregnant. In 2006, Twist's daughter, Carrie, joined the family. "I was thankful the dogs were there," Dr. Deb noted.

The Power of Love

Today, Twist is a certified Pet Partners therapy dog with a special knack for easing the pain caused by cancer. Dr. Deb was inspired to have Twist certified while attending chemo treatments together.

"Together we made hospital visits to women undergoing surgery or chemotherapy for breast cancer in the hope that other women can feel the support like I had with my dogs," she told Petcentric.

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, the two have much to celebrate. Twist, now age 12, continued to have a keen ability to detect cancerous tumors until her retirement.

"When we would go to the hospital, I kept track of which rooms Twist would shy away from, or rooms where she would not go up to the patients, which was unusual for her. In every case, it was a patient who had not had surgery to have their cancer removed," Dr. Deb commented.

Dogs Empower People

For Dr. Deb, her dogs aren't just loving pets — they're her support team. "Worrying is like paying interest on money you'll never borrow. I was making myself sick worrying. I became obsessive about things because I was so stressed out. The dogs helped me to get over that," Dr. Deb shared.

Twist, Carrie and Dr. Deb are featured along with their story on a limited edition Dog Chow® bag to support breast cancer awareness. Aside from a great reminder to get screened, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a fine time to help people or pets with cancer as well.

Are your pets an integral part in managing an ongoing illness or medical condition? Tell us your story in the comments!