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Woman Who Credits Her Labrador With Saving Her Life By Spotting Her Cancer Opens Up Training School To Honor Him

Jo, Star and Bailey (PA Real Life/Collect)

This woman claims her golden Labrador dog spotted her cancer and saved her life. Now, she has launched a canine training school in his honor.


When Jo Porter first noticed her dog Bailey nudging, pawing and even barking at her tummy in January 2015, she thought the affectionate animal was simply seeking attention.

But just three months later, Porter was diagnosed with grade three lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, and told she had just weeks to live if she did not start treatment immediately.

Jo, Bailey and Star (PA Real Life/Collect)

After four grueling months of chemotherapy, Porter beat the disease and discovered a newfound determination to fulfill her dreams.

Inspired by her loyal Labrador, she started a canine training business called "A Dogs-Tail."

“Thinking and re-evaluating my life when I was ill, my biggest regret was not becoming a vet, as I had just gone down a different path," Porter said.

“But I promised myself if I came through everything that I'd work with animals, which is exactly what I'm doing."

Bailey inspired Jo to open her own doggy training business (PA Real Life/Collect)

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Back at the start of 2015, Porter had noticed Bailey becoming fascinated with her stomach and, soon after, started developing excruciating tummy ache and could barely keep her food down.

“Before I was diagnosed, Bailey knew something wasn't right. He would sniff my stomach and gently put his head on it. He seemed fixated by it," she said.

The following month, in February, she was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome by her GP.

But still, Bailey would nuzzle and bark at her belly.

“I was struggling to eat and if I did it would end up going right through me or I'd be sick," she recalled.

“The doctor thought it was stress as I'd recently lost my job, so I thought nothing of it."

Still suffering when she went for an annual check-up in May 2015 for autoimmune hepatitis, the concerned doctor referred her for an MRI scan the same day, at Blackpool General Hospital, in Lancashire.

Jo and Bailey (PA Real Life/Collect)

Seeing a worrying mass in her stomach, doctors performed an endoscopy. A cluster of tumors were detected in her stomach and a tissue sample was taking for to be biopsied for closer testing.

“I had no idea what was going on," she explained.

“But in a matter of days the pain became so intolerable I was bent over and couldn't stand."

Just three days after the biopsy, Porter was asked in for a follow-up appointment, where doctors revealed she had grade three lymphoma in her stomach. Told she had just six weeks to live without treatment, she was given a 40 per cent chance of survival if she started chemotherapy immediately.

Jo had Bailey by her side through grueling chemo (PA Real Life/Collect)

“The doctors said I had to make a decision about how to move forwards if I wanted any chance of surviving," Porter recalled.

“I could barely eat or sleep, part of me just wanted to die, but I knew I had to fight."

Two days later, she began treatment at the same hospital.

“The chemotherapy was horrible right from the beginning. I hate needles and every time was as traumatic as the last. Then I started to lose my hair. Every day I was waking up with clumps on my pillow – I was shedding more than the dog," Porter said.

“I woke up one day and decided to shave it all off. I had to have some control in my life."

Her one joy was having Bailey by her side.

“Bailey pulled me through the treatment. He started sleeping with me and would lay his head on my stomach or back," she continued.

Jo had Bailey by her side through grueling chemo (PA Real Life/Collect)

“I cried an awful lot and he would quite literally lick away the tears. He'd even lie next to me while I was being sick from all the chemotherapy," she said.

By January 2016, after four months of treatment, Porter was able to come off the drugs and further scans revealed the chemotherapy had “destroyed" the tumors in her stomach.

With lots of time to “reflect and evaluate" during her treatment, she decided she needed to fulfill her dreams and became determined to work with animals when she had properly recovered.

Bailey inspired Jo to open her own doggy training business (PA Real Life/Collect)

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Keen to become a vet when she was younger, she vowed to start saving so she could become a qualified dog trainer.

“If I can help someone else live their best life with their pet, I want to do that," she said.

Her plans were delayed by her recovery and her decision to adopt a second dog, Star.

But, told her cancer was in remission in August 2019. So, she completed an online course in canine behavior and training.

Once qualified, she launched A Dogs-Tail online, using Bailey as the inspiration for her logo.

Gathering 15 clients by word of mouth and charging $36 for one-to-one training sessions, including anything from leash training to treating aggressive tendencies in pets, she was soon up and running.

“I do a lot of one-to-one work, so the kind of training depends on the owner and the dog," she said.

“I can help with leash training and chewing furniture and other problem behaviors."

Bailey inspired Jo to open her own doggy training business (PA Real Life/Collect)

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So, to keep her brand name in locals' minds, and help out the community, she has set-up an online shop to provide pet lovers with the basics they need during these difficult times.

And she provides a drop off service for regular clients and other dog owners in the nearby area, admitting that although she is not making “much of a profit," it has spurred her on to make her doggy business a full-time venture.

“Obviously the business has taken a hit with lockdown but I won't let it defeat me," she said.

Jo describes Bailey as her 'rock' (PA Real Life/Collect)

“I've signed up with a wholesaler and now I'm supporting my clients in a different way – by providing them with essentials," Porter said.

“If anything, it's inspired me even more. I'll have my own pet shop on the side once all this is over, just wait and see."